Press Releases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined a bipartisan group of House and Senate members in a letter to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Charles Rettig reiterating concerns regarding persistent customer services issues within the agency, and urging the IRS to eliminate the ongoing processing delays, improve customer service, extend the suspension of automated notices and collections, and continue making maximum use of overtime and surge teams.

“Since last year, numerous Members of Congress in the House and Senate have sent several letters regarding customer service issues, processing delays, and the outstanding backlog of returns,” wrote the bicameral group of lawmakers to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig. “Yet, we are writing again to urge the IRS to extend the suspension of automated collections, continue the pause on automated notices, keep its surge teams in place until hiring challenges and processing backlogs are adequately addressed.”

The lawmakers continued, “[W]e believe that the IRS must take additional steps to improve customer service issues, decrease processing delays, and work-down the backlog of paper returns and correspondence by continuing the maximum use of overtime and surge teams, as well as the continued suspension of automated notices and collections—which have been critical in reducing pandemic-related tax return and correspondence backlogs.”

The letter came just before the signing of the Inflation Reduction Act — legislation Sens. Warner and Kaine helped pass in the Senate—which provides funding to modernize IRS systems and improve customer service when paying taxes. This will help ensure the IRS has the resources it needs to process tax returns quickly, get rebates to taxpayers faster, and address challenges Americans have when filing taxes.

Sen. Warner has been pressing the IRS to address pandemic-related processing delays for the last two years. Sen. Warner first raised concerns over backlogs at the IRS in February 2021, as millions of Americans waited for delayed stimulus payments and processing of their tax returns. In January 2022, as the tax filing season opened, Sen. Warner again called on Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commissioner Rettig to quickly address reports of unprocessed tax returns for the 2020 filing season. Later that month, Sens. Warner and Kaine called on the IRS to provide relief for taxpayers amidst the backlog – a request they again reiterated in a bipartisan and bicameral March letter.  

In April of this year Sen. Warner questioned Commissioner Rettig during a Senate Finance Committee hearing about IRS-backlog related issues regarding Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Additionally, in a separate hearing of the Committee, Sen. Warner questioned IRS National Taxpayer Advocate Erin M. Collins about the backlogs and about the measures being taken to address the situation, and joined colleagues in another letter to Commissioner Rettig urging immediate action to reduce backlogs and improve customer service during the 2022 filing season.

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Commissioner Rettig:

Thank you for your continued work to eliminate the unprecedented backlog at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Since last year, numerous Members of Congress in the House and Senate have sent several letters regarding customer service issues, processing delays, and the outstanding backlog of returns. Several Members of Congress have urged you to provide penalty relief for taxpayers, have continually pressed the agency to pursue maximum overtime options for staff who are working on the backlog and on surge teams, and have asked the agency to deploy additional surge teams and other resources in an effective manner to reduce the backlog. Yet, we are writing again to urge the IRS to extend the suspension of automated collections, continue the pause on automated notices, keep its surge teams in place until hiring challenges and processing backlogs are adequately addressed.

In a Senate Finance Committee Hearing on April 7, 2022, you estimated that the IRS would return to a “healthy state” by the end of 2022 and that the IRS expected to hire 10,000 customer service representatives between this year and next year. Yet, according to the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA), the paper return backlog has actually increased by 1.3 million from the same point as last year and that the IRS was only able to meet 12 percent of its hiring goals for processing center employees earlier this year. NTA also noted that the IRS has not met its 5,000 employee hiring goal for submission processing positions—falling short by 3,417 employees, and that while historically the IRS has paid refunds from paper returns in four to six weeks, refunds are currently taking six months or longer.

Accordingly, we believe that the IRS must take additional steps to improve customer service issues, decrease processing delays, and work-down the backlog of paper returns and correspondence by continuing the maximum use of overtime and surge teams, as well as the continued suspension of automated notices and collections—which have been critical in reducing pandemic-related tax return and correspondence backlogs. Additionally, the IRS must improve its recruitment and retention efforts to adequately address the backlog and increase levels of taxpayer service.

In order to gauge the extent of hiring and processing challenges still facing the Agency, we ask that you provide answers to the following questions no later than August 19, 2022:

Processing Backlogs:

  1. How do you plan to keep your promise to eliminate the backlog?
  2. What is a “healthy level” of unprocessed tax returns? How does this level align with average carryover levels, prior to the pandemic? Please provide the average carryover level over the ten years prior to FY2020, and the current carryover levels.
  3. How would you quantify a “manageable” carryover level? How does this compare to average carryover levels prior to the pandemic? Please provide a breakdown of average carryover levels for accounts management, submission processing, and returns in suspense.
  4. By how much do you estimate the carryover level will increase following the October 15, 2022 extension filing deadline?
  5. Do you believe your answers to questions 2-4 call your end-of-year estimate for a “healthy” IRS into question?
  6. For this filing season, what is the average refund delivery period? For comparison, please provide the average refund delivery period over the past ten years including the COVID-19 pandemic and excluding the COVID-19 pandemic.
  7. How long will the surge teams continue?  Will they continue through the end of the fiscal or calendar year, or beyond?
  8. What effect does the use of surge teams to process the backlog have on the IRS’ other activities, particularly answering phones?
  9. What steps is the Agency taking to speed up its processing of tax returns? Please specifically note whether the agency prioritizes the processing of returns with refunds.
  10. What is the status of IRS efforts to implement scanning technology, as recommended by the NTA?

Hiring Challenges:

  1. How many contractors is the IRS currently utilizing? How do contractors factor into the IRS’ stated hiring goals for submission processing and accounts management positions?

We appreciate your consideration of these requests and attention to these issues.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement after President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law:

“We’re proud that this law will lower the price of prescription drugs, reduce the deficit, bring down energy bills and fight climate change. We’re also glad that it will help ensure that miners suffering from black lung and their families get the care and benefits they deserve. We will continue to look for ways to support the health and well-being of our communities, decrease inflation, and lower costs for Virginians.”

Below are some of the ways the Inflation Reduction Act will benefit Virginians:

Lower Prescription Drug Costs

  • The law allows Medicare to negotiate drug prices for seniors and people with disabilities—a provision Warner and Kaine have long fought to pass to lower prescription drug costs.
  • The law establishes a $2,000 cap on out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs for seniors covered under Medicare Part D. In 2020, more than 36,000 Virginians with Medicare Part D spent more than $2,000 out-of-pocket on their prescription drugs.
  • The law expands the Low-Income Subsidy program, a program that currently helps cover prescription drug costs for over 11,000 low-income Virginians with Medicare.
  • The law provides free coverage for vaccines under Medicare Part D and improves access to vaccines under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). In 2020, nearly 85,000 Virginians received a vaccine covered under Medicare Part D.

Affordable Health Care

  • During the pandemic, Congress enhanced subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to help lower health care premiums for millions of Americans. The Inflation Reduction Act will extend these enhanced subsidies for three years through 2025 to help make Virginians’ health insurance more affordable. Over 300,000 Virginians have ACA coverage in 2022.
  • The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) estimated that Virginians with ACA insurance would have seen a $71 increase in their monthly premiums for the next coverage year if these subsidies weren’t extended.

Black Lung Benefits

  • The law permanently extends the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund excise tax at a higher rate, providing more certainty for miners, miner retirees, and their families who rely on the fund to access benefits. In Virginia, thousands of miners and their families have received benefits through the trust fund since it was established, including approximately 2,600 Virginians last year alone.

Clean Energy and Climate Provisions

  • The law will reduce carbon emissions by roughly 40 percent by 2030.
  • The law incentivizes investment in and production of renewable energy technologies like solar power and the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project.  The Inflation Reduction Act expands the 48C investment tax credit for clean energy manufacturers, with $4 billion reserved for use exclusively in coal communities. All clean energy tax credits include a bonus for meeting domestic manufacturing requirements related to steel, iron, or other manufactured components. The law also expands tax credits for residential clean energy and home efficiency improvements.
  • According to a recent analysis, the clean energy provisions are expected to create nearly 1 million jobs per year.
  • The law includes tax credits for clean medium and heavy duty trucks, such as those produced at the Volvo Trucks New River Valley Plant.
  • The law includes a $7,500 consumer credit for the purchase of new electric vehicles and incentivizes that vehicles are produced in North America.
  • The law includes $9.7 billion for financial assistance to rural electric cooperatives to improve resilience and affordability.
  • The law includes $2 billion for the USDA Rural Energy for America Program to provide competitive grants and loan guarantees to farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or energy efficiency improvements.
  • The law includes $20 billion to help farmers and ranchers adopt agriculture conservation practices that improve landscape resilience.

Tax Fairness

  • The law takes steps to make sure that the largest corporations and wealthiest Americans pay their fair share in taxes, without increasing taxes on small businesses or families making less than $400,000 a year.
  • The law also provides funding to modernize Internal Revenue Service (IRS) systems and improve customer service when paying taxes. This will help ensure the IRS has the resources it needs to process tax returns quickly, get rebates to taxpayers faster, and address challenges Americans have when filing taxes.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Chris Coons (D-DE) reintroduced legislation to give low- and moderate-income workers more access to lifelong learning opportunities. The Lifelong Learning and Training Account Act would establish a tax-preferred savings account with a generous government match to support workers looking to retrain or develop new skills throughout their careers.

In the coming years, more workers will be required to learn new skills throughout their careers. A National Academies of Sciences report focused on information technology and the U.S. workforce recently stressed the need to prepare individuals for the changing labor market. Due to automation, the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that up to a third of the U.S. workforce will need to learn new skills or find new work in new occupations by 2030. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 87 percent of workers believe training and developing new job skills throughout their work life is essential to succeed in the workplace. The Lifelong Learning and Training Account Act would give workers a tool to access that training by providing them with a portable, government-matched savings vehicle for lifelong learning.

“Access to lifelong learning and education is a critical tool that workers need to succeed in today’s economy. Therefore, it is essential for the federal government to support Americans’ ability to retrain and upskill throughout their career,” said Sen. Warner. “This is a no-brainer investment that would help workers continue to expand their skillsets and grow their earning potential. It would also help employers who need skilled workers to fill those jobs, particularly in a competitive labor market.”

“By strengthening access to skills training and fostering a culture of lifelong learning, we can support American workers while ensuring we have a workforce ready to fill the jobs of tomorrow,” said Sen. Coons. “That’s why I’m proud to partner with my colleague Senator Warner to invest in our future with this needed investment, and make available the growth and retraining we know will be vital in a competitive, global economy.”

“Small business owners often struggle to find skilled workers, which has become even more challenging during this competitive labor market,” said John Arensmeyer, Founder & CEO of Small Business Majority. “In fact, Small Business Majority's scientific opinion polling found more than one-third of small employers said it is difficult to find candidates with the right education, skills or training. Since small firms rarely have enough time to dedicate to extensive staff training or sufficient funds to pay for employee education, the Lifelong Learning and Training Account Act would be a huge boost to small businesses by offering them another way to invest in the development of their staff. This legislation would also help solo entrepreneurs invest in their own development and acquire skills without the aid of an employer.”

The Lifelong Learning and Training Account Act creates employee-owned Lifelong Learning and Training Account (LLTA) savings plans. Contributions to an LLTA by low- and moderate-income workers or their employers would be eligible for a dollar-for-dollar federal match of up to $1,000. Under this legislation, the federal matching funds would be directly deposited into the LLTA immediately after a contribution by the worker or employer. The worker would then get to choose how to use the LLTA funds, which could be applied towards any training that leads to a recognized post-secondary credential.

For workers that need to contribute to the cost of updating their job skills, this significant federal investment can make a huge difference in whether or not these workers seek additional training. If employers are willing to match employees’ savings, the returns can be even greater—a $500 contribution by a worker would create $2,000 in training opportunities (a $500 match by the employer, and then a $1,000 match from the federal government.) The accounts are portable from job to job, and always under workers’ control.

Contributions by workers and employers are after-tax dollars, but face no additional taxes on earnings if the LLTA funds are used for qualified training expenses. Eligibility is for workers age 25 to 60, with incomes of up to $82,000 per worker. States will manage the accounts. Accounts are designed to encourage the worker to use the funds to regularly update their skills, rather than build up large balances over many years. Restrictions are put in place to ensure that the government’s matching dollars go only to qualified training expenses.

The full text of the bill can be found here.

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WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC) and U.S. Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI) and Mike Kelly (R-PA) introduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill reforming Opportunity Zones, the tax incentive for individuals who reinvest unrealized capital gains into high-impact projects in underserved communities. Additionally, U.S. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Todd Young (R-IN) and Representatives Terri Sewell (D-AL-07), Dan Kildee (D-MI-05), and Jackie Walorski (R-IN-02) co-sponsored the legislation, called the Opportunity Zones Transparency, Extension, and Improvement Act.

Booker and Scott originally introduced the Investing in Opportunity Act in April 2016. A provision based on the bill was included in the 2017 tax bill. As communities across the country have begun to see investments take hold, the lawmakers are proposing a series of improvements to the tax incentive.

“I am proud to co-sponsor this Opportunity Zone reform bill that will provide more transparency and reporting for these zones,” said Senator Warner. “I was an original leader on the bipartisan Investing in Opportunity Act, which led to the creation of Opportunity Zones, and I know this bill will make meaningful progress and substantially improve the policy.” 

“The Opportunity Zone incentive has the potential to unleash much-needed economic growth in high poverty communities across the country – communities that investors too often overlook. But without robust guardrails in place, the incentive could be undermined or abused by those who aren’t committed to uplifting rural and urban communities across the country,” said Senator Booker. “I am proud to introduce this legislation with Senator Scott to help restore the original promise of opportunity zones by steering private capital to reinvest in underserved communities that have been historically left behind and working to level the economic playing field.”

“The Opportunity Zone program represents the good that leaders can do for communities across the country when we work together toward common sense solutions,” said Senator Scott. “Independent reporting shows that investments in Opportunity Zones are making a huge impact across the country, with billions of dollars flowing into impoverished neighborhoods. I am glad to build on that success with this legislation to make the program stronger, so that we can ensure this incentive is benefitting the Americans who need it most.”

"Opportunity Zones are bringing capital to communities in rural and underserved areas and investing in our local economies," said Representative Kind. "In order to ensure this program is used as it was intended, we need strong transparency and accountability measures in place. I'm proud to help introduce this bipartisan, bicameral legislation to maximize the potential of Opportunity Zones, improve safeguards, and drive economic growth across the country."

“Opportunity Zones have brought new life to America’s Main Streets and communities that have not seen this type of investment in decades,” Representative Kelly said. “Nationally, one of the best-known Opportunity Zones is in my congressional district in Erie, Pennsylvania.  Due to great community partners and private investment, local leaders have been able to leverage the revitalization of downtown Erie.  Our new legislation will help ensure that Opportunity Zones can continue to revitalize communities like Erie for years and decades to come along with giving taxpayer’s the peace of mind that the government is working for them locally.”

“Gaps in Opportunity Zone programs have barred economically distressed areas from accessing the critical resources they need to create new local opportunities. This legislation will help close those gaps and ensure that Opportunity Zone investments lift up low-income communities – spurring further investments and ultimately benefiting Marylanders,” said Senator Van Hollen. “Maryland’s own Sparrows Point and Turner Station, alongside hundreds of recovering regions across the country, stand to see renewed economic vitality and more good-paying jobs as a result of this solution.” 

“The creation of the Opportunity Zones initiative in the 2017 tax reform law has succeeded in attracting capital and investments to historically distressed communities. They serve as a critical tool to create jobs, revitalize neighborhoods, and lift Hoosiers out of poverty, which is why I am proud to help introduce the Opportunity Zones Transparency, Extension, and Improvement Act. This bipartisan legislation will better optimize Opportunity Zone investment in neighborhoods and communities across Indiana while strengthening transparency and reporting metrics to improve on the initiative’s success,” said Senator Young.

This bipartisan legislation would improve Opportunity Zones by:

  • Reinstating and expanding the reporting requirements that were present in the Investing in Opportunity Act (IIOA), the original stand-alone legislation that created Opportunity Zones, but were stripped out in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act due to procedural rules.
  • Ending Opportunity Zones that are not impoverished. While the vast majority of Opportunity Zones are truly impoverished areas, the legislation would sunset a small percentage of Opportunity Zone designations for tracts with a median family income at or above 130 percent of the national median family income. States would be able to designate a new tract in high-need communities for every tract sunsetted under this provision.
  • Creating pathways for smaller-dollar impact investments by allowing Qualified Opportunity Funds (QOFs) to be organized as a "fund of funds" that may invest in other QOFs, providing smaller communities and projects with the financing they need.
  • Providing operating support and technical assistance to high-poverty and underserved communities through a State and Community Dynamism Fund. Flexible grants will help states drive private and public capital to underserved businesses and communities.
  • Extending the tax incentive for two years in order to facilitate continued investment. It took the Treasury Department nearly two years to issue final regulations governing Opportunity Zones, during which time many investors and stakeholders stayed on the sidelines awaiting clear rules for the policy. Extending the policy by an equal amount of time will help investors and communities fully use the tool as Congress intended -- which is especially important now with the economy in recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The full text of the legislation can be viewed here

The one-pager of the legislation can be viewed here.

The section by section of the legislation can be viewed here.  

Quotes in support of the legislation can be viewed below:

John Lettieri, President and CEO, Economic Innovation Group:

“Supporting economic growth in low-income communities remains an urgent challenge as the country recovers from the severe disruption of the pandemic. One powerful way to do that is to strengthen the Opportunity Zones incentive, which has proven to be an effective tool for encouraging investment in struggling areas throughout the country,” said John Lettieri, President and CEO of the Economic Innovation Group. “The Opportunity Zones Transparency, Extension, and Improvement Act would enhance the policy on multiple fronts, including by enacting careful reporting and measurement standards, strengthening the incentive to draw in greater investment, creating new ways to attract funding for high-impact activities, and refining the map of designated communities to better align with the intent of the law. EIG applauds the bill’s sponsors for their thoughtful, bipartisan leadership in bringing this important legislation to fruition.” 

 

Jonathan Tower, Managing Partner, Arctaris Impact Investors:

“Arctaris Impact Investors has invested in the revitalization of under-invested communities for 13 years over 7 funds and, in our experience, the Opportunity Zone incentive is more efficient for delivering capital and social impact to low income census tracts than all the other federal and local economic development programs combined.  The proposed amendments will help attract more institutional-grade capital to OZ funds, and Arctaris looks forward to expanding its platform to support the growth of diverse businesses, community infrastructure, and real estate.  Further, Arctaris has long advocated for and adhered to higher standards for impact reporting than contained in the original legislation, and we welcome the greater transparency requirements in the proposed amendments.”

 

Martin Muoto, CEO, SoLa Impact:

“This bipartisan legislation to improve the Opportunity Zones policy will drive investors to focus more on social impact in communities like South Los Angeles,” said Martin Muoto, CEO of SoLa Impact. “The OZ legislation has enabled SoLa to leverage private capital to build over 1,500 affordable and workforce housing units and house hundreds of formerly homeless residents.”

 

Alex Flachsbart, Founder and CEO, Opportunity Alabama:

“As presented, The Opportunity Zones Transparency, Extension, and Improvement Act will be the biggest step forward for Opportunity Zones in the program’s history. Providing a longer deferral window and allowing the feeder fund concept will substantially improve the flow of capital into the program - and, thanks to inclusion of additional reporting requirements, we can finally get real data on where those funds will flow. Most important, though, is the inclusion of the State and Community Dynamism Fund, a tool that - if properly implemented - could make Opportunity Zones the most effective incentive in the tax code at driving impactful, ground-up community development work."  

 

John Persinger, CEO, Erie Downtown Development Corporation:

“Opportunity Zones are helping to fuel a $100 million revitalization of downtown Erie, Pennsylvania, which is home to one of the poorest zip codes in America,” said John Persinger, CEO of the Erie Downtown Development Corporation. “Strengthening the oversight provisions and generally improving the legislation will ensure that Opportunity Zones continue to help those communities with the greatest economic and social needs, communities like Erie.”

 

Rick Wade, Senior Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

“The Opportunity Zone program is a positive, compelling example of government and the private sector working together to solve our nation's challenges. Investments made possible through the Opportunity Zone program will help underserved communities struggling to bounce back from pandemic-induced economic hardships. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is proud to support this bipartisan legislation that ensures Opportunity Zone financing reaches the areas of our country that need it the most and expands the reach of a public-private partnership on track to decrease the poverty rate by 11 percent,” said Rick Wade, Senior Vice President at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

 

Stephanie Copeland, Partner, Four Points Funding:

"The changes addressed in this bill not only practically strengthens the Opportunity Zone program, but also continues to align investors to the intent of the incentive. We are thrilled to see the thoughtful progress."

 

Katie Kramer, Vice President, Council of Development Finance Agencies:

“The Council of Development Finance Agencies is grateful to Congress for their efforts to introduce important reforms to Opportunity Zones. The State and Community Dynamism Fund is critically needed at the local levels to fully deploy comprehensive OZ strategies in disinvested communities. We stand ready to support the implementation of the Opportunity Zones Transparency, Extension, and Improvement Act.”

 

Ross Baird, CEO and Founder, Blueprint Local:

“As active Opportunity Zone investors, we are excited to see this legislation that can ultimately drive much more impact in distressed communities. It is very positive to see the reporting requirements, which will bring transparency to this catalytic program and drive more impact in communities, as well as the fund of funds provision, which will help many more investors participate in the program and help the country’s most impactful projects find the capital they need.”

 

Ben Seigel, Opportunity Zones & Impact Investment Coordinator, Baltimore Development Corporation:

"From Day 1, the Baltimore Development Corporation embraced Opportunity Zones as a tool for attracting impact capital to underserved neighborhoods and projects in our city. We were one of the first cities in the country to hire an Opportunity Zones Coordinator to match investors with projects, as well as track and monitor investments and their impact. While we have been pleased with the results to date, we know that Opportunity Zones can do a lot more to drive inclusive economic growth in our city. This new legislation would significantly increase the promise and potential of Opportunity Zones in a place like Baltimore City by extending the incentive period, requiring impact reporting, and investing additional resources into OZ projects and local capacity building in underserved communities."

 

Jeremy Keele, Managing Partner, Catalyst Opportunity Funds:

"We're really supportive of this new legislation to improve key elements of the Opportunity Zone policy. As impact-focused investors active in the OZ strategy, we believe the proposed changes are likely to improve transparency and accountability program-wide, and more directly target capital and other resources into the low-income communities around this country that stand to benefit most from OZ investment."  

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Sens. Bob Menedez (D-NJ), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and a bipartisan, bicameral group of colleagues in a letter to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Charles Rettig urging the IRS to provide much needed relief as the agency struggles to address customer service and processing issues. The IRS’s lack of action is causing unnecessary confusion, as the current tax filing season is underway.

“We remain concerned that the IRS does not have a comprehensive plan to remedy the numerous problems affecting taxpayers, despite the fact that this filing season is already well underway,” the lawmakers wrote. “For example, there is continued confusion about which notices may be unilaterally suspended by the IRS, beyond the notices the IRS has already suspended, among other issues.”

In the letter, the lawmakers requested the IRS specifically address which notices are statutorily required to be issued within a specific time, and explain why there are still certain notices that have not yet been suspended.

This letter is supported by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA), Padgett Business Services, National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA), National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP), National Society of Accountants (NSA), National Conference of CPA Practitioners (NCCPAP), National Association of Black Accountants, Inc. (NABA), Latino Tax Pro, Diverse Organization of Firms Advocacy Committee , National Society of Black Certified Public Accountants (NSBCPA), Prosperity Now, and National Society of Tax Professionals (NSTP).

Sen. Warner first raised concerns over the IRS backlog in January, calling on Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commissioner Rettig to quickly address reports of unprocessed tax returns for the 2020 filing season. Later that month, Sens. Warner and Kaine called on the IRS to provide relief for taxpayers amidst the backlog. Last month, Sen. Warner continued his push to reduce delays, joining colleagues in another letter to Commissioner Rettig urging for immediate action to be taken to reduce backlogs and improve customer service during the 2022 filing season. Additionally, in a February Senate Finance Committee hearing, Sen. Warner questioned IRS National Taxpayer Advocate Erin M. Collins about the IRS backlogs and about the measures being taken to address the situation.

In addition to Sens. Warner, Kaine, Menendez and Cassidy, the Senate letter was signed by Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), John Boozman (R-AR), Mike Braun (R-IN), Richard Burr (R-NC), Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Steve Daines (R-MT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), James Lankford (R-OK), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Rob Portman (R-OH), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tim Scott (R-SC), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), John Thune (R-SD), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), and Todd Young (R-IN).

A copy of the Senate version of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Commissioner Rettig,

We appreciate the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)’s ongoing efforts to eliminate the unprecedented backlog at the IRS. We remain concerned that the IRS does not have a comprehensive plan to remedy the numerous problems affecting taxpayers, despite the fact that this filing season is already well underway. For example, there is continued confusion about which notices may be unilaterally suspended by the IRS, beyond the notices the IRS h as already suspended, among other issues.

Given that the IRS has not provided us with any additional information since your last correspondence dated February 8, 2022, we ask for responses to the following questions, no later than the close of business on Monday, March 14, 2022:

1. Which remaining unsuspended notices does the IRS have the authority to suspend? Please explain why the IRS has left these remaining notices unsuspended.
 
2. Is the IRS in the process of working to suspend additional notices? If so, when will that work be completed?
 

3. Which notices are statutorily required to be issued within a specific time? Would the IRS suspend these statutory notices if the IRS had the legal authority to do so?
 
4. Explain why the IRS has not suspended notice CP2000, Notice of Underreported Income? 
 
5. Notwithstanding the publication of Notice 2021-39, widespread controversy surrounding Schedules K-2 and K-3 remains, including recent additional instructions, the inability to electronically file, and lingering uncertainty surrounding many requirements. As such, is the IRS contemplating relief, such as delaying implementation to 2023?
 
6. In early February, the IRS advised Congress that it was considering a systemic process to identify pending penalty abatement requests, and likewise evaluating penalty relief options. Has the IRS determined if it can provide penalty relief for taxpayers as previously offered by the IRS for the 2020 and 2021 tax year? If not, why not?

Thank you for your continued attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – With millions of Americans struggling to get answers from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today continued his push to reduce delays and ensure that Virginians are able to get through the 2022 filing season as smoothly as possible.

In a joint letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, Sen. Warner and a number of his Senate colleagues today urged the IRS to take immediate action to reduce its massive backlog and improve its customer service during the 2022 tax filing season. Specifically, the lawmakers called on the IRS to consider pursuing maximum overtime options for its staff, expanding its surge teams to address processing and correspondence delays, and seeking fast ways to train additional employees and volunteers.

“As the IRS works to eliminate the current backlog of returns and correspondence, we request you to pursue additional actions to maximize the IRS’ current workforce to address the backlog in order to reduce disruptions this filing season,” wrote the lawmakers to IRS Commissioner Rettig.

“We continue to hear from constituents who are still waiting for their 2020 tax returns, have received confusing notices about overdue payments they already paid, and cannot reach anyone at the IRS for assistance. Many of these problems stem from the millions of unprocessed correspondence items from 2021,” the lawmakers added. “We understand the long-term solution to ensure the IRS can manage its workload and provide timely and high-quality service to taxpayers is additional resources to hire and train employees across several departments and modernize technologies. However, those investments will take time, and taxpayers require more immediate relief, especially with the 2022 filing season already underway.”

Additionally, in a Senate Finance Committee hearing today, Sen. Warner questioned IRS National Taxpayer Advocate Erin M. Collins about the IRS backlogs and about the measures being taken to address the situation.

Specifically, Sen. Warner touched on the possibility of extending the tax filing deadline, asking whether an extension would be beneficial in light of the ongoing backlogs. He also asked whether the IRS is setting appropriate expectations and whether the IRS can and should do more right now to better communicate issues to taxpayers.

A copy of the letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig is available here. High-quality audio and video of the hearing exchange is available here or above.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and 212 colleagues in a bipartisan, bicameral letter calling on the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to provide penalty relief for taxpayers and help reduce processing backlogs at the IRS, after hearing from Virginians who are still waiting on their refunds from the 2021 filing season. Taxpayers may qualify for relief from penalties if they made an effort to comply with legal requirements but weren’t able to meet their tax obligations due to circumstances beyond their control, including processing backlogs. The lawmakers noted the delayed processing of amended returns has been particularly devastating to small businesses whose applications for emergency loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA) have been caught in limbo nearly two years after the pandemic began.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has strained every federal agency, the impact on the IRS has been particularly severe,” wrote the lawmakers. “As of December 23, 2021, the IRS continued to have a backlog of 6 million Forms 1040 (Individual Income Tax Returns) and 2.3 million amended individual tax returns. In addition, the IRS has 2 million Forms 941 (Employer Quarterly Tax Returns) that must be processed before the nearly 500,000 amended Forms 941 can be processed.”

“Recognizing the extraordinary challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to the IRS operating with antiquated technology and a constrained budget, we find the current situation alarming. We stand ready to support the IRS and look forward to hearing how we can help you address any obstacles facing the agency,” the lawmakers added. “However, we respectfully request the IRS consider the following measures to bring immediate relief to taxpayers, and reduce the backlog, during this tax filing season. ...While we recognize no single action will alleviate issues that have resulted from difficulties at the IRS spanning administrations of both political parties, these steps would provide our constituents with greater certainty as we enter this year’s filing season.”

Last week, Senator Warner raised concerns with the IRS after hearing from Virginians who are still waiting on their refunds from the 2020 filing season, following a February 2021 letter addressing the same issue of persistent processing delays at the IRS. As members of the Senate Budget Committee, Senators Warner and Kaine are currently pushing for legislation to substantially increase funding for the IRS and help the agency improve operations in the long term.

In addition to Sens. Warner, Kaine, Menendez, and Cassidy, the letter was signed by Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

This effort is supported by the Tax Professionals United for Taxpayer Relief Coalition, which includes the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA), Padgett Business Services, H&R Block, Latino Tax Professional Association, National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP), National Society of Tax Professionals (NSTP), National Society of Accountants (NSA), National Society of Black Certified Public Accountants (NSBCPA), National Conference of CPA Practitioners (NCCPAP), Diverse Organization of Firms Advocacy Committee, National Association of Black Accountants (NABA), and Prosperity Now.

Full text of the letter can be found here and below. 

Dear Secretary Yellen and Commissioner Rettig,

As the 2022 tax filing season fast approaches, we are concerned about the unprecedented challenges facing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the ongoing impact on our constituents. While the COVID-19 pandemic has strained every federal agency, the impact on the IRS has been particularly severe. As of December 23, 2021, the IRS continued to have a backlog of 6 million Forms 1040 (Individual Income Tax Returns) and 2.3 million amended individual tax returns.  In addition, the IRS has 2 million Forms 941 (Employer Quarterly Tax Returns) that must be processed before the nearly 500,000 amended Forms 941 can be processed.

In many cases, the delayed processing of amended returns has been devastating to small businesses in our communities whose applications for emergency loans from the Small Business Administration have been caught in limbo nearly two years after the COVID-19 pandemic began. The situation has deteriorated to a point that the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) will no longer accept cases solely involving the processing of amended returns] This has made it impossible for frustrated taxpayers to find any help.  When our constituents cannot get assistance from the IRS and TAS, they contact us, and we have our hands tied at this point as well. 

Recognizing the extraordinary challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to the IRS operating with antiquated technology and a constrained budget, we find the current situation alarming. We stand ready to support the IRS and look forward to hearing how we can help you address any obstacles facing the agency. However, we respectfully request the IRS consider the following measures to bring immediate relief to taxpayers, and reduce the backlog, during this tax filing season:

  • Halt automated collections from now until at least 90 days after April 18, 2022;
  • Delay the collection process for filers until any active and pending penalty abatement requests have been processed;
  • Streamline the reasonable cause penalty abatement process for taxpayers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic without the need for written correspondence; 
  • Provide targeted tax penalty relief for taxpayers who paid at least 70 percent of the tax due for the 2020 and 2021 tax year; and
  • Expedite processing of amended returns and provide TAS and congressional caseworkers with timely responses.

While we recognize no single action will alleviate issues that have resulted from difficulties at the IRS spanning administrations of both political parties, these steps would provide our constituents with greater certainty as we enter this year’s filing season. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter and the dedication of the IRS and Treasury personnel to improving the filing process in these extraordinary times.

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner today joined a bipartisan, bicameral group of colleagues in calling on the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to provide penalty relief for taxpayers amid extensive, ongoing processing backlogs at the IRS. The House version of the letter was led by U.S. Representatives Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.-38), Darin LaHood (R-Ill.-18), Richard Neal (D-Mass.-01), Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.-16), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.-05), Tom Rice (R-S.C.-07), Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.-09), Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.-03), Judy Chu (D-Calif.-27), and Ron Estes (R-Kan.-04).

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has strained every federal agency, the impact on the IRS has been particularly severe,” wrote the group of lawmakers to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig. “As of December 23, 2021, the IRS continued to have a backlog of 6 million Forms 1040 (Individual Income Tax Returns) and 2.3 million amended individual tax returns. In addition, the IRS has 2 million Forms 941 (Employer Quarterly Tax Returns) that must be processed before the nearly 500,000 amended Forms 941 can be processed.”

The lawmakers noted the delayed processing of amended returns has been particularly devastating to small businesses whose applications for emergency loans from the Small Business Administration have been caught in limbo nearly two years after the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“Recognizing the extraordinary challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to the IRS operating with antiquated technology and a constrained budget, we find the current situation alarming. We stand ready to support the IRS and look forward to hearing how we can help you address any obstacles facing the agency. However, we respectfully request the IRS consider the following measures to bring immediate relief to taxpayers, and reduce the backlog, during this tax filing season,” the lawmakers added. “...While we recognize no single action will alleviate issues that have resulted from difficulties at the IRS spanning administrations of both political parties, these steps would provide our constituents with greater certainty as we enter this year’s filing season.”

This effort is supported by the Tax Professionals United for Taxpayer Relief Coalition, which includes the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA), Padgett Business Services, H&R Block, Latino Tax Professional Association, National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP), National Society of Tax Professionals (NSTP), National Society of Accountants (NSA), National Society of Black Certified Public Accountants (NSBCPA), National Conference of CPA Practitioners (NCCPAP), Diverse Organization of Firms Advocacy Committee, National Association of Black Accountants (NABA), and Prosperity Now.

“The Tax Professionals United for Taxpayer Relief Coalition is grateful to Senators Menendez and Cassidy and the 214 Members of Congress for their leadership towards making this tax filing season a little easier for taxpayers and practitioners. The Coalition represents millions of taxpayers from diverse backgrounds, including those representing Latinos, African Americans, small businesses and low-income taxpayers – Senators Menendez and Cassidy and their colleagues are fighting for these taxpayers. Together, we aim to reduce contact with an agency under strain. We ask that the IRS heed the unified voice of our stakeholder coalition and Members of Congress to grant taxpayers relief now.”  

Full text of the letter is available here and below. 

Dear Secretary Yellen and Commissioner Rettig,

As the 2022 tax filing season fast approaches, we are concerned about the unprecedented challenges facing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the ongoing impact on our constituents. While the COVID-19 pandemic has strained every federal agency, the impact on the IRS has been particularly severe. As of December 23, 2021, the IRS continued to have a backlog of 6 million Forms 1040 (Individual Income Tax Returns) and 2.3 million amended individual tax returns.  In addition, the IRS has 2 million Forms 941 (Employer Quarterly Tax Returns) that must be processed before the nearly 500,000 amended Forms 941 can be processed.

In many cases, the delayed processing of amended returns has been devastating to small businesses in our communities whose applications for emergency loans from the Small Business Administration have been caught in limbo nearly two years after the COVID-19 pandemic began. The situation has deteriorated to a point that the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) will no longer accept cases solely involving the processing of amended returns. This has made it impossible for frustrated taxpayers to find any help.  When our constituents cannot get assistance from the IRS and TAS, they contact us, and we have our hands tied at this point as well. 

Recognizing the extraordinary challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to the IRS operating with antiquated technology and a constrained budget, we find the current situation alarming. We stand ready to support the IRS and look forward to hearing how we can help you address any obstacles facing the agency. However, we respectfully request the IRS consider the following measures to bring immediate relief to taxpayers, and reduce the backlog, during this tax filing season:

  • Halt automated collections from now until at least 90 days after April 18, 2022;
  • Delay the collection process for filers until any active and pending penalty abatement requests have been processed;
  • Streamline the reasonable cause penalty abatement process for taxpayers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic without the need for written correspondence; 
  • Provide targeted tax penalty relief for taxpayers who paid at least 70 percent of the tax due for the 2020 and 2021 tax year; and
  • Expedite processing of amended returns and provide TAS and congressional caseworkers with timely responses.

While we recognize no single action will alleviate issues that have resulted from difficulties at the IRS spanning administrations of both political parties, these steps would provide our constituents with greater certainty as we enter this year’s filing season. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter and the dedication of the IRS and Treasury personnel to improving the filing process in these extraordinary times.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – On the first day of the 2021 tax filing season, Sen. Warner raised concerns with the IRS after hearing from Virginians who are still waiting on their refunds from the 2020 filing season. These delays come as millions of Americans continue to face economic hardship due to the COVID-19 crisis.

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, Sen. Warner stressed the importance of getting Virginians their individual tax refunds as soon as possible in order to avoid further processing delays. As of December 31, 2021, there were approximately 6 million unprocessed tax returns from 2020.

“I appreciate the IRS’ efforts to address the significant backlog of unprocessed returns, and recognize the significant challenges the agency has faced in operating during the pandemic while implementing major programs such as the stimulus payments and the Advance Child Tax Credit payments,” wrote Sen. Warner. “However, persistent delays harm taxpayers who are waiting for their returns to process – often those who need their refunds most –  and the agency has an obligation to implement a clear plan that alleviates this backlog while avoiding major delays for the processing of filed returns during the 2021 tax filing season.” 

This letter follows up on a February 2021 letter addressing the same issue of persistent processing delays at the IRS.

“Since my last letter, I have continued to hear from constituents that have still not had their 2020 tax returns processed, which has also caused delays in receiving the Advance Child Tax Credit payments, stimulus payments, tax refunds, and other much needed financial aid from the IRS,” Warner noted. “Additionally, businesses that have pending tax returns face delayed processing of their SBA EIDL loan applications. Taxpayers have increasingly expressed to my staff that they are unable to garner any information related to the processing of their tax returns via IRS phone lines or the website.”

In order to further understand the ongoing situation, Sen. Warner asked for answers to the following questions:

  1. What formal plans have the IRS and Treasury developed to resolve the significant backlog of individual and business tax returns that remain unprocessed from the 2020 tax filing season?
  2. How specifically will that plan allow the IRS to continue to process the backlog in parallel with the processing of returns for the tax year 2021 filing season?
  3. Will taxpayers whose 2020 returns remain unprocessed or delayed face any difficulties in filing returns – electronically or in paper form – for the 2021 tax year?  If so, what might these delays or difficulties be, what are your specific plans for addressing them, and how will taxpayers be informed in a timely fashion?
  4. When do you anticipate that the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) will resume accepting inquiries related to the processing of amended tax returns?  If TAS is unable to accept this casework, will the IRS dedicate other resources to assist with inquiries that TAS is unable to accept?

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Warner has been a strong advocate for Virginians, working to ensure that they get the funds to which they are entitled. In April 2020, he pressed the Treasury Department to ensure that families who are not normally required to file taxes do not need to wait until the following year to receive the additional $500 payment per dependent child that they were promised. He also successfully pushed the Treasury Department to allow Social Security recipients to automatically receive CARES Act direct cash assistance without needing to file a tax return.

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Secretary Yellen and Commissioner Rettig,

I write today to express my concern with the alarming number of my constituents who have not received their long-awaited tax refund from their 2020 taxes.  As you are well aware, millions of Americans are still facing economic hardships and are desperately in need of these funds to help make ends meet.

In my letter to you on February 8, 2021, I noted that as of November 6, 2020 there were approximately 6.8 million unprocessed tax returns.  As of December 31, 2021, there are still 6 million unprocessed tax returns; additionally, as of January 8, 2022, there are still 2.3 million unprocessed 1040-X, and 1.1 million unprocessed business tax returns as of January 12, 2022.

Since my last letter, I have continued to hear from constituents that have still not had their 2020 tax returns processed, which has also caused delays in receiving the Advance Child Tax Credit payments, stimulus payments, tax refunds, and other much needed financial aid from the IRS. Additionally, businesses that have pending tax returns face delayed processing of their SBA EIDL loan applications. Taxpayers have increasingly expressed to my staff that they are unable to garner any information related to the processing of their tax returns via IRS phone lines or the website. 

On November 10, 2021, National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins announced that the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) would no longer accept congressional inquiries solely related to the processing of amended tax returns, due to the agency not being able to meaningfully expedite or improve case resolution for taxpayers.  Ms. Collins also issued a Taxpayer Advocate Directive directing the IRS to “complete processing of all backlogged amended tax returns by December 29, 2021 or provide a detailed plan for completing processing the backlog”.  The absence of assistance from TAS further aggravates the problems my constituents and other Americans face.  

I appreciate the IRS’ efforts to address the significant backlog of unprocessed returns, and recognize the significant challenges the agency has faced in operating during the pandemic while implementing major programs such as the stimulus payments and the Advance Child Tax Credit payments. However, persistent delays harm taxpayers who are waiting for their returns to process – often those who need their refunds most –  and the agency has an obligation to implement a clear plan that alleviates this backlog while avoiding major delays for the processing of filed returns during the 2021 tax filing season. 

Please reply to me as soon as possible, and no later than February 4, 2022, with specific answers to the following questions:

  1. What formal plans have the IRS and Treasury developed to resolve the significant backlog of individual and business tax returns that remain unprocessed from the TY 2020 tax filing season?
  2. How specifically will that plan allow the IRS to continue to process the backlog in parallel with the processing of returns for the tax year 2021 filing season?
  3. Will taxpayers whose 2020 returns remain unprocessed or delayed face any difficulties in filing returns – electronically or in paper form – for the 2021 tax year? If so, what might these delays or difficulties be, what are your specific plans for addressing them, and how will taxpayers be informed in a timely fashion?
  4. When do you anticipate that TAS will resume accepting inquiries related to the processing of amended tax returns?  If TAS is unable to accept this casework, will the IRS dedicate other resources to assist with inquiries that TAS is unable to accept?

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

 

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON– U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), former Governor of Virginia; Tom Carper (D-Del.), former Governor of Delaware; and Angus King (I-Maine), former Governor of Maine, today released the following statement:

“As former governors, we care deeply about closing the tax gap and making sure everyone is paying their fair share. Misconceptions of what the financial reporting proposal would do should not derail us from this important goal. We are committed to working with our colleagues to address any concerns with proposals to close the tax gap and to make sure that wealthy taxpayers and corporations pay the taxes that they have the ability to pay and legally owe.”

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Bill Hagerty (R-TN) introduced legislation to provide much-needed tax relief to working artists by updating the Qualified Performing Artist (QPA) tax deduction, which allows certain performing artists to deduct the cost of expenses incurred in the course of their employment. The Performing Artist Tax Parity Act would update the thresholds of the QPA deduction to ensure that more lower- and middle-income artists can benefit from the tax break.

The Performing Artist Tax Parity Act is endorsed by numerous organizations advocating for the rights of emerging artists, including the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO, the Actors’ Equity Association, the Theatre Communications Group, the Recording Academy, and the Nashville Songwriters Association.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for performers and artists,” Sen. Warner said. “Even as widespread vaccinations allow venues to reopen, many actors, musicians and performing artists are still struggling to recover. I’m glad to be working on a bipartisan solution to help ease some of the burden on working artists during a very difficult time.”

“As a son of Tennessee and my state’s former Commissioner of Economic & Community Development, I appreciate how vital our entertainment sector is to both Tennessee’s rich culture and its economy,” Sen. Hagerty said. “I’m pleased to introduce and work on a bipartisan basis with Senator Warner on this important legislation that will help Tennessee’s creative industry and the performing artists who make it truly thrive. Under our legislation, lower- and middle-income performing artists from Mountain City to Memphis will get to keep much more of their hard-earned wages because it updates a Reagan-era tax deduction that helps artists account for the costs of work-related expenses and adjusts it for the damaging impacts of inflation.”

The Qualified Performing Artist tax deduction has not been updated since its inception in 1986 and is currently only available to those making less than $16,000 a year, meaning that very few artists qualify. The Performing Artist Tax Parity Act will update and increase the income ceiling to $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for married joint filers, allowing many more lower and middle-income performing artists to receive tax relief for work-related expenses. 

A copy of the bill text can be found here. Companion legislation has been sponsored in the House of Representatives by Reps. Judy Chu (D-CA) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL).   

“I want to thank Senator Mark Warner and Senator Bill Hagerty for drafting and introducing this important legislation. They are great champions of the creative professionals that keep our industry successful,” said SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher. "We have been fighting for this legislation because it will allow working class entertainment and media professionals legitimate deductions so that they can retain more of their hard earned money during these most challenging times.”

“I am grateful for the leadership of Senators Warner and Hagerty as they fight for tax fairness for performing artists while the industry is in a historic crisis,” said Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity Association. “The overwhelming majority of Equity stage managers and actors are working-class people who work hard to make ends meet, and unlike other workers, they often have to spend 30 percent of their income on business expenses. Our producers can deduct their business expenses, and we should be able to do so too. The Performing Artist Tax Parity Act will put more money in the pockets of working performers when they need it the most as we work toward recovery in the arts sector.”

“Ensuring union creative professionals can once again deduct work expenses is a top priority for DPE and our affiliated unions in the arts, entertainment, and media industries. We commend Senators Warner and Hagerty for introducing this important legislation in the Senate, which will put money back in the hands of hard-working, middle class professionals,” said Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE) President Jennifer Dorning.

“As the Senate Finance Committee moves to complete deliberations on its fiscal 2022 tax proposals, it should be noted that the more than 80,000 professional musicians of the American Federation Musicians have long used the Qualified Performing Arts Tax Parity Act provisions of the IRS code to recover usual and necessary expenses that employers in this industry have for decades refused to reimburse,” said AFM President Ray Hair. Working musicians continue to struggle while recovering from the loss of a bulk of their live music performance income due to the COVID19 pandemic. The Performing Artist Tax Parity Act is sensible legislation that we can all agree on.  It will restore these deductions and help musicians and other entertainment professionals recover from the ravages of the pandemic, which brought our industry to a screeching halt, while helping working artists and their families become whole again.”

“I commend Senators Warner and Hagerty for joining Representatives Chu and Buchanan in putting aside partisanship to help thousands of middle class behind-the-scenes entertainment workers and creative professionals,” stated IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb. “The inability to deduct work expenses has been hurting our members long before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down our work and wiped out our wages. Now, with a full return to work in sight, Congress should pass this bill, establish tax fairness, and ensure our workers come back stronger than before.”

“Theatre Communications Group is pleased to endorse the Performing Artist Tax Parity Act, a tax correction sorely needed by performing artists, especially now, as their lives have been upended by COVID-19,” said Laurie Baskin, Director of Advocacy for Theatre Communications Group.

“RIAA strongly supports this bipartisan effort to make the tax code work for artists and musicians. This legislation will strengthen our music ecosystem and create new jobs and opportunities in touring, recording, and more – all while opening the door just a little wider for the next generation trying to break through. We applaud Senators Warner and Hagerty for fighting for tax fairness for working artists and musicians,” said RIAA CEO Mitch Glazier.

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You can watch a video message about the tax credit from Senator Warner here and Senator Kaine here.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, on the eve of the historic Child Tax Credit payments beginning for 39 million families across the nation, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement applauding the new monthly payment to millions of U.S. households. Starting July 15, eligible parents will begin receiving automatic monthly payments for the next six months of $250 for every child aged 6 to 17 and $300 for every child under 6. The American Rescue Plan, which both Warner and Kaine voted for, made these payments possible. An estimated 1.6 million children across Virginia will benefit from the expanded child tax credit, including 249,000 children in the Commonwealth who are currently in poverty. The expansion will lift 85,000 Virginia children out of poverty.

“The pandemic has taken a devastating toll on families across the Commonwealth, exacerbating the challenges that low- and middle-income families face,” said the Senators. “In response, Democrats expanded the Child Tax Credit and instructed IRS to make advance payments as part of the American Rescue Plan. These monthly payments will make a huge difference in the lives of families in Virginia and across the nation by providing low- and middle income parents with money to help pay for necessities like food, housing, and health care. We are proud to have supported this expansion, which will cut child poverty in half and improve lives across the Commonwealth.”

To qualify for the monthly Child Tax Credit payments, families must have:

  • ·Filed a 2019 or 2020 tax return and claimed the Child Tax Credit on the return; or given their information in 2020 to the IRS to receive the Economic Impact Payment using the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here tool; and
  • ·A main home in the United States for more than half the year (the 50 states and the District of Columbia) or file a joint return with a spouse who has a main home in the United States for more than half the year; and
  • ·A qualifying child who is under age 18 at the end of 2021 and who has a valid Social Security number; and
  • ·Made less than certain income limits: households earning less than $75,000 for single filers, $112,500 for heads of households, and $150,000 for joint filers.

Warner and Kaine urge eligible Virginia families to make sure they receive their checks by visiting the IRS website to ensure they are enrolled. Most families who are eligible will not need to do anything to receive these payments; IRS will use the information they have on file to automatically deposit the funds into their bank account or through a mailed check.

If you believe you are eligible but have not filed a tax return for 2019 or 2020, please file your return or register for payments as a non-filer to automatically receive your monthly payment. For more information, click here

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and a bipartisan group of their colleagues in urging U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, to fully fund the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program for fiscal year (FY) 2022. PILT provides payments to counties with non-taxable federal land within their borders to offset the lost property tax revenue. 

“Without full funding for the PILT program, counties across the nation will be unable to provide essential services such as law enforcement, education, search and rescue, road maintenance and public health to their residents and millions of visitors to our public lands,” wrote Warner, Bennet, Crapo, and the senators. “Moving forward, we look forward to working with you to enact a fiscally responsible, long-term solution to fully fund PILT and eliminate the uncertainty that counties face each year. As cash strapped counties across the country work to address budget cuts exacerbated by the pandemic, full-funding and a long-term solution for PILT is essential to provide certainty that the federal government will continue to uphold its long-standing commitment to public lands counties.”

PILT funding is critical for communities in Colorado and across the country that use these funds for essential services like infrastructure maintenance and law enforcement. Across the country, PILT provides critical resources to nearly 1,900 counties across 49 states. Counties have used these payments for more than 40 years to fund law enforcement, firefighting, emergency response, and other essential county services. As communities continue to rebuild in the aftermath of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, this funding is needed now more than ever. Bennet and the senators will continue working toward a long-term solution for PILT that will provide counties and local governments sustained funding and more predictability.

In addition to Bennet and Crapo, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).

The text of the letter is available HERE and below.

Dear Chairman Leahy and Vice Chairman Shelby:

As Members of Congress representing counties with federal public lands within their boundaries, we write to request that you work to ensure the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program is fully funded in fiscal year (FY) 2022.

PILT provides critical resources to nearly 1,900 counties across 49 states to offset lost property tax revenue due to the presence of tax-exempt federal lands within their jurisdictions. It supports the many critical services that counties provide on federal public lands. Without full funding for the PILT program, counties across the nation will be unable to provide essential services such as law enforcement, education, search and rescue, road maintenance and public health to their residents and millions of visitors to our public lands.

Moving forward, we look forward to working with you to enact a fiscally responsible, long-term solution to fully fund PILT and eliminate the uncertainty that counties face each year. As cash strapped counties across the country work to address budget cuts exacerbated by the pandemic, full-funding and a long-term solution for PILT is essential to provide certainty that the federal government will continue to uphold its long-standing commitment to public lands counties.

We look forward to working with you and other Congressional leaders to resolve this pressing issue facing our communities by fully funding PILT in FY 2022 and ensuring long-term predictable funding for this important program.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, joined Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, and Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chairman of the Committee, and a group of their colleagues in urging the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to challenge any abusive tax deductions that opioid companies may take for settlements that they are paying out related to their role in fueling the opioid epidemic.

The Senators’ letter follows recent reporting indicating that, after being sued by state or local governments for harmful practices, opioid companies are planning to manipulate the tax code in order to claim billions of dollars in tax benefits. The Senators are calling on the IRS to use the full extent of its authority under recent regulations to challenge these tax schemes. “We strongly encourage the IRS to fully enforce the tax code by challenging any erroneous interpretations of these recent regulations that opioid companies may use in an attempt to claim tax deductions for legal settlement expenses,” wrote the Senators.

In addition to Senators Hassan and Wyden, the letter was signed by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Angus King (I-ME), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ).

Read the Senators’ full letter here or below:

Dear Commissioner Rettig: 

We write to urge the Internal Revenue Service to use the full extent of its authority to challenge any abusive tax deductions claimed by opioid companies for expenses related to legal settlements regarding these companies’ role in fueling the opioid crisis.

Recent reporting indicates that four companies involved in the multi-district opioid litigation collectively plan to claim billions of dollars in tax deductions for expenses related to a pending $26 billion settlement with state and local governments, which sued these companies for their role in fueling the opioid epidemic. Similarly, in 2019, a judge ordered one of these companies to pay $572 million to the State of Oklahoma for misleading marketing of its opioid products. Based on this reporting, we are concerned that opioid wholesalers and drug companies may mischaracterize legal settlement expenses in order to claim tax deductions under tax code section 162(f), which allows the deduction of restitution payments. 

In January 2021, the IRS published TD 9946, final regulations regarding the deductibility of legal settlement expenses under section 162(f). We strongly encourage the IRS to fully enforce the tax code by challenging any erroneous interpretations of these recent regulations that opioid companies may use in an attempt to claim tax deductions for legal settlement expenses. 

We thank you for your attention to this important issue.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) raised concern with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) after hearing from an alarming number of Virginians who have yet to receive their second economic impact payment (EIP) or long-awaited tax return. These troubling delays come as millions of Americans find themselves in desperate need of a financial lifeline after continuing to face economic hardship due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“I am deeply appreciative of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) work during the pandemic. The agency has delivered hundreds of millions of EIPs to Americans, all while managing the risks associated with COVID-19 and the need to protect our public servants at the IRS,” wrote Sen. Warner in his letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and IRS Charles Commissioner Rettig.“However, while the IRS has made an effort to provide timely and updated information on their website, my constituents continue to be frustrated with their inability to navigate some of the issues that are delaying their tax refunds and their second round of EIPs.”

As of November 19, 2020, there were an estimated 3.3 million pieces of unopened mail – including 1.6 million tax returns – at the IRS’ four Submission Processing Centers.

Currently, taxpayers who do not receive their economic impact payment must claim these funds by filing a tax return. This threatens to further delay needed payments, and poses a particularly burdensome problem for Social Security recipients and other vulnerable populations, who may be forced to file a tax return despite not normally having a tax filing obligation. 

In his letter, Sen. Warner also stressed the IRS’ responsibility to process individual tax returns and issue refunds as quickly as possible. In order to further understand the ongoing situation, Sen. Warner asked for answers to the following series of questions: 

  1. What is the current IRS backlog of paper tax returns and correspondence specifically at the Kansas City, MO location where Virginians’ tax returns are processed? When does the IRS project it will be finished processing the backlog? Can the IRS commit to providing more frequent updates on the backlog?
  2. As the nation continues to work through the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, what steps is the agency taking to prepare for the upcoming tax filing season and to process all returns, whether filed electronically or by U.S. Mail, as quickly as possible?
  3. For taxpayers who have filed their Forms 1095-A and 8962, when can they expect to have that form processed by the IRS?
  4. For the second EIP, how many payments have been successfully delivered?  How many payments have been returned to the IRS? Why are some constituents who received the first EIP now having issues accessing the second? 

During the COVID-19 crisis, Sen. Warner has been a strong advocate for Virginians, working to ensure that they get the funds to which they are entitled. Last April, he pressed the Treasury Department to ensure that families who are not normally required to file taxes do not need to wait until the following year to receive the additional $500 payment per dependent child that they were promised. He also successfully pushed the Treasury Department to allow Social Security recipients to automatically receive CARES Act direct cash assistance without needing to file a tax return.

Text of the letter is available here and below. 

 

Dear Secretary Yellen and Commissioner Rettig,

I write today to express my concern with the alarming number of my constituents who have not received their long-awaited tax refund or the second economic impact payment (EIP). As you are well aware, millions of Americans are facing economic hardships and are desperately in need of these funds to help make ends meet. 

I am deeply appreciative of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) work during the pandemic. The agency has delivered hundreds of millions of EIPs to Americans, all while managing the risks associated with COVID-19 and the need to protect our public servants at the IRS. I applaud your responsiveness to Congress and the agency’s focus on delivering vital assistance to Americans in dire need of support. However, while the IRS has made an effort to provide timely and updated information on their website, my constituents continue to be frustrated with their inability to navigate some of the issues that are delaying their tax refunds and their second round of EIPs.

I understand that as of November 7, 2020, there were approximately 6.8 million individual paper return in various processing stages at the four Submission Processing Centers.  Commissioner Rettig stated in his November 19, 2020, letter to my office that there were “an estimated 3.3 million pieces of unopened mail at these four locations, including 1.6 million tax returns.”

Since the November 19, 2020 letter from Commissioner Rettig, I have continued to hear from constituents that still have not had their 2019 tax returns processed or received their refunds. In addition, my constituents report that they have not received their second EIP despite many of these constituents reporting that they received their previous payment via direct deposit, and the agency’s Get My Payment Tool indicates their payment was authorized and mailed on January 6, 2021. Because taxpayers who do not receive their EIP must claim their payment by filing a tax return and claiming the Recovery Rebate Credit, many taxpayers face the possibility of even lengthier waits to receive their payment, including many who do not normally have a tax filing obligation. As you know, this population includes Social Security recipients and the most vulnerable in our county. 

In addition, constituents continue to indicate that they are not receiving refunds due to lags in processing Health Insurance Marketplace Statements (Form 1095-A) and Premium Tax Credits (Form 8962), which are required if they receive their healthcare from the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

I appreciate the enormity of the challenges that the agency faces in trying to conduct its work while keeping its workers safe from COVID-19. However, the agency has a responsibility to process individual tax returns and issue all refunds that taxpayers are entitled to as quickly as possible and to be as communicative as possible.

To help me respond adequately to my constituents, please answer the following questions:

  1. What is the current IRS backlog of paper tax returns and correspondence specifically at the Kansas City, MO location where Virginians’ tax returns are processed? When does the IRS project it will be finished processing the backlog? Can the IRS commit to providing more frequent updates on the backlog?
  2. As the nation continues to work through the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, what steps is the agency taking to prepare for the upcoming tax filing season and to process all returns, whether filed electronically or by U.S. Mail, as quickly as possible?
  3. For taxpayers who have filed their Forms 1095-A and 8962, when can they expect to have that form processed by the IRS?
  4. For the second EIP, how many payments have been successfully delivered?  How many payments have been returned to the IRS? Why are some constituents who received the first EIP now having issues accessing the second?

I know the IRS is working diligently to serve the American people, and I welcome our continued collaboration to help Americans across the country. Thank you for your attention to this important issue.

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Charles Rettig and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma urging them to ensure that families aren’t denied critical financial assistance needed in order to purchase quality health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The letter comes after Sen. Warner’s office heard from Virginia families, including the Burger family, who discovered that they were wrongfully denied tax credits due to delays in processing 2019 tax filings that are required to purchase affordable health insurance through the ACA marketplace exchanges. The deadline to enroll for the ACA is December 15. 

“I am writing to draw your attention to an issue that could cause a significant number of individuals to be denied affordable health insurance on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace. It is my understanding that due to delayed processing of 2019 tax returns, numerous Americans have been deemed in violation of the Marketplace’s ‘failure to file and reconcile’ requirement (FTR), and will be ineligible for advanced premium tax credits (APTCs) to ensure affordable health coverage starting January 1, 2021,” wrote Sen. Warner to IRSCommissioner Rettig and Administrator Verma.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) established advanced premium tax credits (APTC) to help working families purchase affordable health insurance through the exchanges. In order to receive the tax credit during this year’s enrollment period, individuals have to complete their 2019 tax return. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS has not been able to process these returns in a timely manner due to reduced staff hours at the agency. As a result, individuals who would normally be eligible for the credit cannot receive it because the IRS has not yet processed their returns. 

“Put simply, a number of Americans will be denied an APTC in the Marketplace through no fault of their own, because their tax returns were delayed. I have already heard from several Virginians who – as a direct result of delayed tax returns – have been unable to or confused about their ability to enroll in health care coverage during this years’ open enrollment period,” continued Sen. Warner. “Financial assistance is essential to millions of working class Americans and their families to ensure affordable health coverage on the Marketplace. I am concerned that individuals will be wrongfully denied coverage and that a failure to address this issue could result in these families going without health care coverage during the peak of an unprecedented global pandemic.”

In his letter, Sen. Warner also pressed the Administration to suspend termination of the 2021 APTC, inform affected enrollees of this change, and extend the deadline to apply for 2021 ACA coverage through a special open enrollment period for individuals and families wrongfully denied financial assistance.  

Text of the letter is available here or below.

 

Dear Commissioner Rettig and Administrator Verma:

I am writing to draw your attention to an issue that could cause a significant number of individuals to be denied affordable health insurance on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace. It is my understanding that due to delayed processing of 2019 tax returns, numerous Americans have been deemed in violation of the Marketplace’s “failure to file and reconcile” requirement (FTR), and will be ineligible for advanced premium tax credits (APTCs) to ensure affordable health coverage starting January 1, 2021. 

Under existing Marketplace regulations, an enrollee becomes ineligible for an APTC if they did not file an income tax return for a prior year during which an APTC was received. However, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Treasury delayed the tax filing deadline for all Americans from April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020. In addition, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has cut staff hours as result of the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to experience significant tax return processing delays. 

Put simply, a number of Americans will be denied an APTC in the Marketplace through no fault of their own, because their tax returns were delayed. I have already heard from several Virginians who – as a direct result of delayed tax returns – have been unable to or confused about their ability to enroll in health care coverage during this years’ open enrollment period. 

Financial assistance is essential to millions of working class Americans and their families to ensure affordable health coverage on the Marketplace. I am concerned that individuals will be wrongfully denied coverage and that a failure to address this issue could result in these families going without health care coverage during the peak of an unprecedented global pandemic.

I urge you to address this problem by suspending the termination of 2021 APTC. In addition, I ask that you inform affected enrollees of this change and extend the deadline to apply for 2021 coverage through a special open enrollment period for individuals who were deterred from enrolling due to the previous notices they received threatening to end their financial assistance.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter, and I look forward to hearing back from you.

Sincerely,

Mark R. Warner

U.S. Senator

 

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Representative Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) in introducing bipartisan, bicameral legislation to make the payroll tax deferral outlined by President Trump optional for any worker whose employer chooses to participate, including federal employees and service members. The text of the Preventing Employees from Surprise Taxes Act can be found here.  

“Day in and day out our military members and federal employees work to help the American people, but instead of supporting these public servants, President Trump is using them as pawns in his political payroll tax scheme. This cannot stand. Our men and women in uniform and federal employees should be able to make the financial decisions that work best for them rather than be forced to participate in Trump’s PR stunt against their will. That’s why I’m glad to lead this bipartisan push and will continue fighting to get this done,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“I have heard from countless federal employees and service members concerned that they are going to be hit with a massive tax bill due to the Trump administration’s election year gimmick,” said Chairman Connolly.  “Our legislation will protect these public servants and give them a choice in participating in this program.”

In addition to Sens. Warner and Van Hollen, this legislation was cosponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

In the House the legislation is cosponsored by Representatives Don Beyer(D-Va.), Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), and Jim Costa (D-Calif.).

The legislation is supported by a number of organizations, including: the American Federation of Government Employees, the National Treasury Employees Union, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, the National Federation of Federal Employees, the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund, the Senior Executives Association, the Federal Managers Association, the Professional Managers Association, National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys, United Power Trades Organization, Antilles Consolidated Education Association, National Weather Service Employees Organization, Patent Office Professional Association, National Association of Government Employees, National Education Association, Social Security Works, Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Americans for Tax Fairness, the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.

Statements of support from many of these organizations can be found here.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and more than 20 of their Senate colleagues in sending a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought urging them to make the payroll tax deferral outlined by President Trump last month optional for federal employees and service members. In their letter the Senators also push for answers on how the Administration plans to implement this deferral.

 “We urge you to let federal workers and uniformed service members choose whether to defer their payroll tax obligations under IRS Notice 2020-65, rather than forcing them to participate. Federal workers and service members should not be used as pawns for a payroll tax scheme that many private sector employers are unlikely to join and where key questions remain unanswered,” the Senators begin.

 “While some federal employees may want to defer their payroll tax payments, unions representing federal workers have made clear that many others do not,” they continue. “IRS Notice 2020-65 does not answer many key questions, but KPMG concludes that it ‘appears’ to give employers the option to, ‘Permit deferrals only at the employee’s election.’”

 They go on to highlight several unanswered questions on the tax deferral, writing, “Federal employees and service members lack basic information about how agencies will implement the payroll tax deferral.” The Senators urge Secretary Mnuchin and Director Vought to clarify these key details before the deferral begins on or around September 18.

 In addition to Sens. Warner and Van Hollen, signers include Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Angus King (I-Maine), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

The full text of the letter is available here and below.

 

Dear Secretary Mnuchin and Director Vought,

We urge you to let federal workers and uniformed service members choose whether to defer their payroll tax obligations under IRS Notice 2020-65, rather than forcing them to participate. Federal workers and service members should not be used as pawns for a payroll tax scheme that many private sector employers are unlikely to join and where key questions remain unanswered.

While some federal employees may want to defer their payroll tax payments, unions representing federal workers have made clear that many others do not. IRS Notice 2020-65 does not answer many key questions, but KPMG concludes that it “appears” to give employers the option to, “Permit deferrals only at the employee’s election.” PwC states that employers may want to provide this option to their workers, noting that, “The reduced take-home pay in early 2021 as a result of the additional withholding for the deferred Social Security tax may make some employees not want to participate in the deferral, even if their employer opts in.”

Federal employees and service members lack basic information about how agencies will implement the payroll tax deferral. In addition to clarifying whether federal employees will be forced to participate, please answer the following questions:

  1. If an employee or service member separates from their job prior to repaying deferred payroll taxes in their 2021 withholdings, will their employing agency or the IRS seek to collect unpaid payroll taxes from that employee? If so, how will they do so?
  1. Please provide us with a cost estimate for federal agencies to pay the employee payroll taxes that they are unable to withhold or otherwise recoup as a result of the deferral.
  1. How will federal agencies communicate key information about the payroll tax deferral to their workers, particularly regarding the reduction in take-home pay in 2021? As KPMG stresses, “It is important to manage employee expectations and keep employees informed of their obligations prior to making the election to defer.”

Reports indicate that federal employee paychecks may be affected by the payroll tax deferral on or around September 18. Please respond to these questions as soon as possible so that federal workers and service members have some clarity on these issues before their paychecks are changed.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto in a letter joined by 34 other Senate colleagues to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig urging them to take action to ensure that survivors of domestic violence can access their Economic Impact Payment. Domestic violence survivors face unique barriers that can keep them from being able to access their economy recovery rebates they are legally entitled to under the law.

“The recovery rebate authorized by the CARES Act has been an essential lifeline for Americans suffering economic hardship during the pandemic, but unfortunately, victims of domestic violence face significant barriers in accessing their rebate,” the Senators wrote.“Research has shown that 99 percent of victims experience economic abuse as part of domestic violence. In our current environment, stimulus payments are a crucial mechanism of support for these victims. Some survivors have lost income or lost their jobs due to COVID-19, and may be trapped with or feel forced to return to an abusive partner to avoid homelessness. Access to domestic violence services, from shelters to protection orders, has also been limited by COVID-19, making it even harder for domestic violence survivors to maintain safety.” 

The Senators continued, “The barriers keeping domestic violence victims from accessing their rebates are varied and significant. Victims of domestic violence may be unbanked, have no permanent address, or have no access to the resources needed to file a tax return, making it difficult, if not impossible, for them to obtain their stimulus payment through the methods currently prescribed.” 

In order to ensure that survivors can access their payments, U.S. Treasury Department and the IRS should, among other things, dedicate a telephone line for survivors to call and report a change of address or misdirected rebate, create a process with an online PIN to verify a victim’s identity, take proactive steps to ascertain the proper address and banking information for taxpayers if a pending “innocent spouse claim” or “Victim of Domestic Violence” indicator is on a taxpayer’s account and issue specific guidance for divorced and separated parents regarding qualified children who are shared between custodial and non-custodial parents. In addition to addressing the above reforms, the IRS and the Treasury should work closely with advocacy groups that specialize in the financial and other issues facing survivors, as well as relevant federal offices including the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women and Office for Victims of Crime, and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Family Violence Prevention and Services Program, to ensure that solutions are survivor-informed. 

In addition to Sens. Warner and Cortez Masto, Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tom Cardin (D-Md.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) also signed the letter.

Full text of the letter can be found here.

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WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner joined Sen. Michael Bennet and 11 Senate colleagues in asking key questions about aggressive deadlines and delayed delivery related to the $500 Economic Impact Payment per dependent. 

For example, recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits, Social Security, Railroad Retirement, or Social Security Disability Insurance have received little notice of the requirements necessary to receive the $500 Economic Impact Payment per dependent this year. Beneficiaries were given days’ notice to enter their information online before the April 22 and May 5 deadlines. The IRS has stated that those who missed the deadlines will have to wait until next year to collect the payment.  

“To have met these timelines, eligible recipients must not only have been aware of them, but must have easy access to internet services to register for the benefits, which they often do not,” wrote the Senators in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig.“[W]e are concerned that individuals receiving SSI, VA benefits, Social Security, Railroad Retirement, or Social Security Disability Insurance who do not receive their dependent payments in a timely manner will face significant hardship. Many of these individuals were already struggling prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and are even more financially strained now.”

Additionally, taxpayers who filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return and expected to receive the per-child payments have also reported that they did not receive them.

In the letter, the senators requested the agencies lay out their plan to respond to bipartisan requests to provide the dependent payment to beneficiaries who missed the deadlines and provide the best available data on the status of all dependent payments.

In addition to Warner and Bennet, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Margaret Wood Hassan (D-N.H.), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

The text of the letter is available HERE and below.

 

Dear Secretary Mnuchin and Commissioner Rettig:

We write to request information on the status of Economic Impact Payments from the CARES Act, specifically relating to the $500 payment per eligible dependent.

The CARES Act authorized the distribution of $1,200 payments to qualifying individuals and an additional payment of $500 for each dependent child under the age of 17. We commend the IRS for disbursing over $207 billion in payments to 130 million people in less than 30 days; however, according to recent reports,[1] despite having filed tax returns, some eligible recipients have yet to receive the entirety of the payment for which they are eligible. Specifically, a number of parents and guardians have stated that they have not received the payment of $500 for each dependent child. 

On Wednesday April 29, 2020, the IRS posted the following guidance on its website:

If you did not receive the full amount to which you believe you are entitled, you will be able to claim the additional amount when you file your 2020 tax return.

The IRS subsequently stated that individuals who did not file a tax return for 2018 or 2019 but receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits have until Tuesday May 5, 2020 to enter their information online to receive the $500 payment per dependent child. Those who miss the deadline to register, as the IRS states, must wait until next year to collect the $500 payment when they file a 2020 tax return. Social Security, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Railroad Retirement recipients were given an earlier April 22 deadline that allowed only 48 hours to enter dependent information online. To have met these timelines, eligible recipients must not only have been aware of them, but must have easy access to internet services to register for the benefits, which they often do not.

We know that many of the constraints that you face are due to administrative difficulties caused by a decade of underinvestment in IRS. We also appreciate your work to get the $1,200 payments directly and automatically to recipients of Social Security, SSDI, Railroad Retirement, SSI, and VA benefits without having to file tax returns.

However, we are concerned that individuals receiving SSI, VA benefits, Social Security, Railroad Retirement, or Social Security Disability Insurance who do not receive their dependent payments in a timely manner will face significant hardship. Many of these individuals were already struggling prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and are even more financially strained now. Given these concerns, please respond to the following requests: 

  1. Has the IRS determined whether some households who filed a tax return for tax years 2018 or 2019 have not received the full payment to which they are entitled, and if so, why? Is the IRS taking any steps to correct this issue to ensure these households receive their full payment in 2020? 
  1. What steps has the Treasury and IRS taken, or what steps do your agencies plan to take, to respond to bipartisan requests from Congress to explore ways to provide $500 dependent payments to Social Security, SSI, and VA beneficiaries who missed the April 22 and May 5 filing deadlines? 
  1. Please provide the best available data on the total number and amount of $500 per-dependent payments that have been received, are in the process of being delivered, and have not yet been claimed, broken down into each of the following groups:
    1. Taxpayers who have filed 2018 or 2019 tax returns;
    2. Taxpayers who have not filed 2018 or 2019 tax returns but are recipients of Social Security, SSDI, Railroad Retirement, SSI, or Veterans benefits; and,
    3. Taxpayers who have not filed and are not recipients of Social Security, SSDI, Railroad Retirement, SSI, or Veterans benefits. 

We look forward to working with the Department of Treasury and the IRS to ensure that all eligible recipients receive their $500 payments per dependent as quickly as possible to help alleviate the severe economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Sincerely, 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and a group of 30 senators in writing a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, urging him to reject politically motivated conditions on financial relief for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), which is a critical lifeline for many Americans, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The senators also expressed their strong opposition to the use of coronavirus as a pretext to pursue privatization of USPS, which is widely unpopular with the American people.

The senators’ letter comes as the Treasury Department considers a $10 billion loan to support the USPS, which continues to see mail traffic, and thus revenue, drop immensely during this COVID-19 pandemic, all the while becoming an even more important lifeline to Americans and businesses.  President Trump recently publicly threatened that he will not approve the loan unless the USPS raises package rates by an exorbitant amount, in what appears to be a thinly-veiled attempt at retaliation against the president’s perceived critics.

“Enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, the USPS has always provided an invaluable service —delivery to anyone with an address, regardless of living in an urban versus rural area, being rich or poor, or old or young,” wrote the senators. “Now, during the COVID-19 crisis, millions of people are receiving their much-needed relief checks through the mail. An affordable delivery service is needed more than ever in these times—to ensure everyone is able to get their essential medicine prescriptions, purchase items not available in their area, or to keep in touch with loved ones in a time of social distancing. U.S. businesses, especially small and medium-sized businesses that are suffering greatly because of lost revenue because of the coronavirus, also rely on receiving goods through the USPS’s affordable pricing structure.

“We are therefore very disturbed to hear President Trump’s public statements threatening approval of the $10 billion loan unless conditions are added such as hiking prices perhaps to even four or five-times as high as current levels. These threats appear to be thinly-veiled attempts to retaliate against what he sees as a vocal critic of his presidency, the Washington Post, and its owner Jeff Bezos. We are concerned about President Trump’s history of invoking another of Bezos’ assets, Amazon, in conjunction with calls to increase prices charged by the USPS, strongly suggesting personal and political motivations on this matter. It would be highly inappropriate and unacceptable for the Department of Treasury to act on such motivations when considering the USPS loan or other USPS relief.” 

The senators further outlined their opposition to privatizing USPS. “We similarly oppose, in the strongest possible terms, using the coronavirus crisis as a way to push through a privatization of the USPS. The White House Office of Management and Budget in 2018 advocated for privatization of the Postal Service, an idea which has been around for a long time but is extremely unpopular with the American people.”

“Taking advantage of this pandemic by raising prices on shipping companies or pursuing privatization for political purposes will only mean one thing—increased prices for everyday consumers, as well as the huge numbers of businesses that depend on the mail service. These reported planned conditions President Trump seeks to impose on the $10 billion loan to the USPS stand in stark contrast with the relative lack of strings placed on monies made available to corporations in recent relief efforts, no matter how badly a company might have been managed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the senators continued. “We urge you to reject these political and ideological calls to use this pandemic to further the President’s agenda while burdening everyday Americans and U.S. companies already struggling to make ends meet.”

In addition to Udall the letter was joined by U.S. Senators Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Il.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Dick Durbin (D-Il.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif).

The full text of the letter can be found below and here.

 

Dear Sec. Mnuchin:

We write to you to express our deep concern that the solvency of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), which provides essential delivery services for 160 million American homes and businesses, is being jeopardized for political reasons. We urge you to reject imposing counterproductive or politically motivated conditions on the pledged $10 billion emergency loan to the USPS and any other relief that the USPS needs. 

Enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, the USPS has always provided an invaluable service —delivery to anyone with an address, regardless of living in an urban versus rural area, being rich or poor, or old or young. Now, during the COVID-19 crisis, millions of people are receiving their much-needed relief checks through the mail. An affordable delivery service is needed more than ever in these times—to ensure everyone is able to get their essential medicine prescriptions, purchase items not available in their area, or to keep in touch with loved ones in a time of social distancing. U.S. businesses, especially small and medium-sized businesses that are suffering greatly because of lost revenue because of the coronavirus, also rely on receiving goods through the USPS’s affordable pricing structure. 

We are therefore very disturbed to hear President Trump’s public statements threatening approval of the $10 billion loan unless conditions are added such as hiking prices perhaps to even four or five-times as high as current levels. These threats appear to be thinly-veiled attempts to retaliate against what he sees as a vocal critic of his presidency, the Washington Post, and its owner Jeff Bezos. We are concerned about President Trump’s history of invoking another of Bezos’ assets, Amazon, in conjunction with calls to increase prices charged by the USPS, strongly suggesting personal and political motivations on this matter. It would be highly inappropriate and unacceptable for the Department of Treasury to act on such motivations when considering the USPS loan or other USPS relief.

We similarly oppose, in the strongest possible terms, using the coronavirus crisis as a way to push through a privatization of the USPS. The White House Office of Management and Budget in 2018 advocated for privatization of the Postal Service, an idea which has been around for a long time but is extremely unpopular with the American people. In addition to privatizing parts of the USPS, the Treasury Department’s Presidential Task Force on the Postal Service called for hiking prices charged by the USPS as well as cuts in services and decreased benefits for postal workers. Privatization efforts like these would lead to putting profits over people—meaning rural areas would suffer from service cuts and Americans would be left to the whims of corporations constantly seeking to maximize their bottom lines—and should be off limits during this crisis.

Taking advantage of this pandemic by raising prices on shipping companies or pursuing privatization for political purposes will only mean one thing—increased prices for everyday consumers, as well as the huge numbers of businesses that depend on the mail service. These reported planned conditions President Trump seeks to impose on the $10 billion loan to the USPS stand in stark contrast with the relative lack of strings placed on monies made available to corporations in recent relief efforts, no matter how badly a company might have been managed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge you to reject these political and ideological calls to use this pandemic to further the President’s agenda while burdening everyday Americans and U.S. companies already struggling to make ends meet. 

In addition to being highly inappropriate, any attempt to retaliate against the USPS in this way would also be deeply unpopular with the American people. Recent opinion polling released by the Pew Research Center shows how important the USPS is to all Americans—across political party affiliation. Ninety one percent of survey respondents stated that they viewed the USPS in a positive light, reflecting almost identical majorities from both Republican and Democratic parties. And, our democracy may very well depend on the ability of immunocompromised and otherwise vulnerable people to vote-by-mail in a time where going to polls is risking their very lives.

Finally, these threats are an insult to the hardworking men and women of the USPS, who are on the front lines keeping our society and economy functioning during the COVID-19 pandemic. To provide these critical services to our nation, hundreds of thousands of postal workers are heroically facing the coronavirus every day so that their fellow Americans can more safely remain in their homes and not spread the virus. This is a heavy burden in addition to making sure that “snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” keeps them from guaranteeing everyone with an address receives their mail. Tragically, 44 postal carriers have already lost their lives from COVID-19.

We urge you to do what is right not only for the postal workers bravely delivering our essential goods, but also for the American people and businesses who rely on affordable mail services. We strongly recommend that you reject any politically-motivated conditions that would force price increases, service or benefit cuts, or otherwise hinder the excellent work of the USPS when considering the pledged $10 billion emergency loan or any other relief for the USPS.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and a group of senators in a letter to Senate Leaders calling for a temporary expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) in the next coronavirus relief package. As the economic effects of COVID-19 are expected to last into next year, this would put money back in the pockets of working Americans as they continue to weather the economic downturn. 

“COVID-19 has presented our nation with an unprecedented public health challenge. This Congress has taken several bipartisan steps to address it, along with the resulting economic effects we’ve already seen. However, additional measures are critical to confront and reverse ongoing economic paralysis. The EITC and the CTC are proven and effective tools to increase financial stability for workers and their families. Expanding them will provide much needed support to families and boost our economy as our nation recovers from COVID-19,” the Senators wrote.

The Senators’ letter calls for filling gaps in the EITC and CTC that leave out the youngest adult workers, workers not raising children in the home, and the lowest-income families. Currently, the youngest adult workers – including those on the front lines of coronavirus like health aides, grocery store clerks, and truck drivers – are ineligible for the credit. Workers not raising children in the home are only eligible for a small credit. These gaps mean 5 million American workers are taxed into or further into poverty by our current tax code. Expanding the EITC for these workers would fix this.

The letter also calls for making the CTC fully available to all children as a refundable credit and increasing the credit amount for kids under 6 years of age, to provide additional support to children and families at a time in life that is critical for cognitive development. As the economic effects of coronavirus continue, these changes to the CTC will benefit 26 million kids whose families currently cannot receive the full value of the $2,000 credit. 

Together, these expansions will provide support to the workers and families who will be hit the hardest and affected the longest by this crisis. 

Today’s letter builds on the Senators’ Working Families Tax Relief Actwhich would cut taxes for workers and families by expanding the EITC and CTC. EITC and CTC are two of the most effective tools we have to put money in the pockets of working people and pull children out of poverty. Expanding them will give millions more Americans a foothold in the middle class. Read more about the bill HERE. 

In addition to Warner, Brown, Bennet, Durbin and Wyden, the letter was also signed by Sens. Baldwin (D-WI), Blumenthal (D-CT), Booker (D-NJ), Cardin (D-MD), Casey (D-PA), Coons (D-DE), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Duckworth (D-IL), Feinstein (D-CA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Harris (D-CA), Hassan (D-NH), Heinrich (D-NM), Hirono (D-HI), Kaine (D-VA), King (D-ME), Klobuchar (D-MN), Leahy (D-VT), Markey (D-MA), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Murphy (D-CT), Murray (D-WA), Peters (D-MI), Reed (D-RI), Rosen (D-NV), Schatz (D-HI), Shaheen (D-NH), Smith (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Udall (D-NM), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warren (D-MA), and Whitehouse (D-RI).

A copy of the Senators’ letter to Senate Leaders can be found HERE and below.

 

Dear Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer:

The economic havoc brought about by COVID-19 will have wide-ranging and long-lasting effects, especially on low-wage workers, children, and their families. CBO expects unemployment to rise to 16% and then hold at levels of 10% through the end of 2021. More aggressive policy steps must be taken to get the economy back on an acceptable path. To help address this, we urge you to include a temporary expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) in the next coronavirus legislative package, to take effect for tax year 2020.

COVID-19 has presented our nation with an unprecedented public health challenge. This Congress has taken several bipartisan steps to address it, along with the resulting economic effects we’ve already seen. However, additional measures are critical to confront and reverse ongoing economic paralysis. The EITC and the CTC are proven and effective tools to increase financial stability for workers and their families. Expanding them will provide much needed support to families and boost our economy as our nation recovers from COVID-19.

The EITC promotes work and provides a financial boost to low-wage workers and their families. However, gaps in EITC mean that millions of people are left out. Low-wage seniors over 64 and the youngest adult workers not raising children in the home are locked out entirely: their EITC benefit is zero. In all, five million workers without children are taxed into or deeper into poverty, receiving only a small EITC benefit. Across our country, we have seen the importance of people who do essential jobs but are paid too little. An expanded EITC would provide additional income to supplement their limited earnings. Among the people who would benefit the most from a robust childless adult EITC are cashiers, health-aides, and truck drivers – workers on the front lines of coronavirus. We must fill the existing gaps and increase the size of the credit generally.

The CTC provides a $2,000 credit to eligible families with children. Unfortunately, it currently leaves behind approximately 26 million children. That’s because their families either qualify for no credit at all, or because they qualify for less than the full $2,000. The time is now to fix these obvious flaws by making the CTC fully available to all children as a refundable credit. Doing so would provide the biggest boost to the poorest families, by simply providing them the same amount that more well-off families already receive. We should also increase the credit amount for kids under 6 years of age, to provide additional support to children and families at a time in life that is critical for cognitive development.   

We must respond to this unprecedented challenge with policies that provide support to the workers and families who will be hit the hardest and affected the longest by this crisis. Doing so also serves as effective economic stimulus, delivering efficient results to American taxpayers. Our Working Families Tax Relief Act, legislation that we are all sponsoring this Congress, provides the model for making these critical improvements to the EITC and CTC. Working families are depending on us to meet this extraordinary moment by providing them with the support they need to weather the ongoing economic effects of COVID-19 in the years to come. We must deliver for them.    

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and 34 of their Senate colleagues calling on the U.S. Treasury Department to ensure that families who are not normally required to file taxes – and who will automatically receive their COVID-19 stimulus payment – do not need to wait until next year to receive the additional $500 payment per dependent child that they were promised if they miss the deadline to fill out information in the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) non-filer portal. 

“We write to express our concern that without additional action from your agencies, many families who receive Social Security benefits and have young children may not receive the full cash assistance that Congress provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act until 2021,” wrote the Senators. “We urge your agencies to ensure that economically vulnerable non-filers receiving Social Security retirement, Social Security disability, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits receive stimulus payments for themselves and their dependent children as quickly as possible – before next year.”

The letter comes after Treasury announced on Monday that families on Social Security, who do not normally file tax returns, needed to enter additional information on the IRS website within 48 hours in order to receive thier $500 payment per dependent child, as outlined in the CARES Act. Treasury stated that if families missed the deadline, they would not receive the additional payment until they file in 2021. The Treasury’s announcement also indicated that it would soon set a similar deadline for recipients of Supplemental Security Income and certain Department of Veterans Affairs benefits whose beneficiaries also do not usually file taxes.

They continued, “We request that Treasury find another way forward that – without delaying any automatic $1,200 payments – ensures that these Social Security beneficiaries and their children quickly receive the full amount of cash assistance for which they are eligible. We urge your agencies to continue providing access to the Non-Filers tool after non-filers have received their initial automatic stimulus payments, so that these economically vulnerable individuals can request and receive additional payments for dependent children prior to 2021.”

Throughout this crisis, Sens. Warner and Kaine have fought to make sure that families get the assistance they need as quickly and easily as possible. Earlier this month, the Senators successfully pushed Treasury to walk back a decision that would have forced file tax returns in order to receive direct cash payments – a move by Treasury that would have directly contradicted Congressional intent in drafting the CARES Act. Earlier today, Sen. Warner also joined a group of Senators in pushing the Treasury Department to increase its efforts to make Economic Impact Payments available to Americans who are the most vulnerable, including those without access to the internet who cannot file a tax return electronically.

In addition to Senators Warner, Kaine, Hassan, Brown, Bennet, and Booker, the letter was signed by Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Thomas R. Carper (D-DE), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Doug Jones (D-AL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Angus S. King, Jr. (I-ME), Gary C. Peters (D-MI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Christopher S. Murphy (D-CT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).

Text of the letter is available here or below:

 

Dear Secretary Mnuchin and Commissioner Saul: 

We write to express our concern that without additional action from your agencies, many families who receive Social Security benefits and have young children may not receive the full cash assistance that Congress provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act until 2021. Based on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance from Monday afternoon, it appears that many Social Security beneficiaries will need to have submitted information about their dependents by yesterday at noon in order to receive their $500 additional stimulus payment per child before next year. Many eligible families will not have been able to meet this short, 48-hour deadline. We urge your agencies to ensure that economically vulnerable non-filers receiving Social Security retirement, Social Security disability, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits receive stimulus payments for themselves and their dependent children as quickly as possible – before next year.

The bipartisan CARES Act recently signed by the President provides direct cash assistance to individuals amidst the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis. The Act provides $1,200 per eligible adult and an additional $500 in cash assistance per dependent child. Three weeks ago, Treasury indicated that Social Security recipients who do not typically file taxes would have to file this year in order to receive these cash payments. The Treasury then reversed course two days later, after we urged the Department to do so, with Secretary Mnuchin saying that “Social Security recipients who are not typically required to file a tax return do not need to take an action,” and would receive direct deposits to their bank accounts.

However, on Monday, April 20, the Treasury announced that many Social Security beneficiaries would need to fill out a simplified tax form within 48 hours in order to receive their families’ full stimulus payments this year. The special alert published by the IRS indicated that Social Security beneficiaries who will automatically receive stimulus payments because they do not typically file tax returns would be required to submit information through the IRS Non-Filers online tool in order to claim $500 payments for their dependent children. According to the IRS, Social Security beneficiaries who failed to claim these dependent payments by noon yesterday, April 22, will no longer be able to use the Non-Filers tool to claim payments for their dependents. The IRS also indicated that recipients of SSI and certain VA benefits who do not usually file taxes will face a similar deadline soon. Any of these non-filers who miss these deadlines to claim their dependents will not be able to receive any payments for dependent children until filing a 2020 tax return in 2021. Estimates indicate this could impact the families of about 1 million child dependents.

We request that Treasury find another way forward that – without delaying any automatic $1,200 payments – ensures that these Social Security beneficiaries and their children quickly receive the full amount of cash assistance for which they are eligible. We urge your agencies to continue providing access to the Non-Filers tool after non-filers have received their initial automatic stimulus payments, so that these economically vulnerable individuals can request and receive additional payments for dependent children prior to 2021. We do not believe that the IRS needs to delay – nor would we support delaying – any automatic $1,200 payments to non-filers in order to achieve this goal.

We greatly appreciate your agencies’ efforts to automatically provide stimulus payments to Social Security retirement, Social Security disability, SSI, and VA beneficiaries who do not file tax returns. We also appreciate Treasury’s efforts to assist non-filers with claiming stimulus payments through the Non-Filers tool. Without these efforts, many non-filers would have missed out on their stimulus payments altogether because they were unable to file a tax return or were unaware they needed to. To continue assisting struggling families during the COVID-19 crisis, we strongly urge your agencies to ensure that non-filers receive their stimulus payments – including additional payments for dependent children – as quickly as possible.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to Social Security Administration (SSA) Commissioner Andrew Saul urging the agency to consider freezing Social Security garnishment actions and focus on providing timely responses to those who are having their Social Security payments withheld during the COVID-19 pandemic. SSA operates a network of more than 1,200 offices around the country, which have been closed since March 17.

“I write today to urge the Social Security Administration to offer leniency and accommodations during the ongoing public health crisis caused by the spread of COVID-19. Local Social Security offices have been closed to in-person visits since March 17. This has limited access for vulnerable Americans. Many Americans cannot use online services either because they do not have an internet connection at their residence or they lack access to public internet services because most non-essential businesses across the country are closed,” wrote Sen. Warner in his letter to Commissioner Saul.

While services have continued through the agency’s toll-free line and website, Sen. Warner’s office has heard from a number of Virginians who are unable to receive timely assistance from SSA due to the lack of in-person services. When offices are not closed, SSA fields 33 million calls annually through its National 800 Number and long wait times are typical. In Fiscal Year 2019, SSA’s offices were fully open and phone lines were still busy 14 percent of the time.

“Many report having filed reconsiderations and appeals before March 17 with no word from their local office that the paperwork has been received, let alone that it is being processed. Others report that their previously scheduled hearings with Administrative Law Judges have been canceled. At a time when businesses are laying off workers, these individuals will struggle to find even supplemental employment while they wait for their applications to be adjudicated,” continued Sen. Warner.

In his letter, Sen. Warner calls on the agency to issue a temporary emergency suspension of garnishment actions that would allow SSA to protect its employees while ensuring Americans dependent on SSA decisions are not adversely affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

Last week, Sen. Warner successfully pushed the U.S. Treasury to ensure that all Social Security beneficiaries will automatically receive the direct payment assistance included in the CARES Act without having to file tax returns.

A copy of the letter is found here and below. A comprehensive list of Sen. Warner’s work to protect Americans amid the coronavirus outbreak is available here.

 

The Honorable Andrew Saul

Commissioner

Social Security Administration

6401 Security Boulevard

Baltimore, MD 21235

Dear Commissioner Saul:

I write today to urge the Social Security Administration (SSA) to offer leniency and accommodations during the ongoing public health crisis caused by the spread of COVID-19. Local Social Security offices have been closed to in-person visits since March 17. This has limited access for vulnerable Americans. Many Americans cannot use online services either because they do not have an internet connection at their residence or they lack access to public internet services because most non-essential businesses across the country are closed.

My office has heard from a number of Virginians who, through various circumstances, are having their Social Security payments withheld and are unable to receive timely assistance from SSA due to the lack of in-person services. Many report having filed reconsiderations and appeals before March 17 with no word from their local office that the paperwork has been received, let alone that it is being processed. Others report that their previously scheduled hearings with Administrative Law Judges have been canceled. At a time when businesses are laying off workers, these individuals will struggle to find even supplemental employment while they wait for their applications to be adjudicated.

As we all take steps to limit the spread of COVID-19, I urge you consider freezing garnishment actions until SSA’s usual services can resume and assist those Americans who are relying on timely decisions for their applications. During this crisis, we need to ensure the federal government is a helping hand, rather than a hurdle for Americans struggling to deal with the impacts of the virus.

Thank you in advance for your prompt response and attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) applauded an announcement by the U.S. Treasury Department, which said that Social Security recipients will not need to file tax returns and will automatically receive the direct cash assistance included in the CARES Act. 

This announcement follows a letter from Sen. Warner and 42 other colleagues, who raised alarms over guidance that the IRS issued earlier this week that said that Social Security beneficiaries would need to file tax returns in order to receive direct cash payments. This directly contradicted Congressional intent in drafting the CARES Act, which had made clear that the Treasury Department had the authority to send automatic direct cash assistance to Social Security beneficiaries regardless of whether they file taxes.

“The federal government should be making it easier – not harder – for our most vulnerable populations to get the assistance they need during this pandemic,” said Sen. Warner. “The folks who rely on Social Security are especially dependent on this help, as they are particularly vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 and the economic fallout from this crisis. I’m pleased that the Treasury Department will no longer place an added burden on these individuals, and will instead get these dollars out quickly they way lawmakers intended when we passed the stimulus deal.”

In addition to Sen. Warner, the letter was signed by Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), as well as Bob Casey (D-PA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Thomas R. Carper (D-DE), Michael F. Bennet (D-CO), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Doug Jones (D-AL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Gary C. Peters (D-MI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Angus S. King, Jr. (I-ME), Tina Smith (D-MN), Christopher A. Coons (D-DE), Patty Murray (D-WA), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

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