Press Releases

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,

###

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,

###

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,

###

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).

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joinedSenators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and 37 of their colleagues in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Social Security Administration Commissioner Andrew Saulto call for Social Security recipients to receive their direct cash payment without having to file a tax return. While the CARES Act that Congress passed last week ensured that the Treasury Department had the authority to send automatic direct cash assistance to Social Security beneficiaries regardless of whether they file taxes or not, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released contradictory guidance earlier this week stating that Social Security beneficiaries would need to file tax returns in order to receive direct payments. 

Warner & Kaine joined their colleagues in expressing alarm over this guidance and calling for the Treasury Department and Social Security Administration to ensure that all Social Security beneficiaries will automatically receive the direct assistance included in the CARES Act without having to file tax returns.

“This [IRS] filing requirement would place a significant burden on retired seniors and individuals who experience disabilities, especially given the current unavailability of tax filing assistance from Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs during the COVID-19 crisis,” wrote the Senators. “We strongly urge you to ensure that economic stimulus payments are automatically sent to vulnerable seniors and individuals who experience disabilities, without these individuals needing to file a tax return.”

In addition to Warner, Kaine, Hassan, and Brown, the letter was also signed by Senators 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), 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).
 
Read the full letter here and below:

Dear Secretary Mnuchin and Commissioner Saul:

The COVID-19 public health emergency is taking a massive economic toll on families across the country. To provide immediate financial assistance to struggling individuals during this crisis, Congress passed and the President signed the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This legislation directly provides most Americans with stimulus payments to help cover necessary personal expenses.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will automatically send stimulus payments to eligible taxpayers who filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return. However, many Social Security beneficiaries, including retired seniors and individuals who experience disabilities, typically do not file tax returns. To ensure that these vulnerable individuals automatically receive stimulus payments, the CARES Act explicitly provides the Treasury Department with the authority to provide payments to seniors receiving Social Security retirement benefits and to individuals receiving Social Security disability benefits, even if these individuals do not file tax returns.

Unfortunately, on March 30, the IRS published guidance indicating that the agency may require recipients of Social Security retirement and disability benefits to file 2019 tax returns to receive stimulus payments. This filing requirement would place a significant burden on retired seniors and individuals who experience disabilities, especially given the current unavailability of tax filing assistance from Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs during the COVID-19 crisis.

Along with colleagues on the House Ways and Means Committee, we strongly urge you to ensure that economic stimulus payments are automatically sent to vulnerable seniors and individuals who experience disabilities, without these individuals needing to file a tax return.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after voting in favor of a $2 trillion bipartisan package to provide financial relief to businesses and families as well as hospitals and local governments during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic: 

“This is not the first step Congress has taken to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, nor will it be the last. This bill provides significant financial relief to our families and businesses struggling with the effects of widespread closures and other public health measures. It greatly expands access to unemployment benefits – including, for the first time, gig workers, contractors and the self-employed –  and includes tax credits and other incentives I negotiated with the Trump Administration to help small businesses keep workers on payroll and keep them from going out of business during this crisis. This bipartisan bill also includes a massive infusion of resources for hospitals, frontline caregivers, and states and localities dealing with the brunt of COVID-19. I strongly urge the House of Representatives to pass this bill without delay, so that we can get this urgently-required relief to those who so badly need it.

“This is a challenge unlike any we have faced in recent memory, but I believe that we as a country can and will get through this together. I will remain in close touch with state, local and health officials to ensure that we are doing everything possible to provide the resources needed to fight the coronavirus.”

Previously, the President signed a bipartisan $8.3 billion emergency funding bill that directed needed resources to federal, state and local agencies responding to coronavirus. This legislation immediately provided Virginia with $13.3 million in federal funding to help cover the costs of preparations for this public health emergency. It also included language based on Sen. Warner’s CONNECT for Health Act of 2019, which reduces restrictions on the use of telehealth for public health emergency response, as well as $500 million to facilitate its implementation.

On March 18, the President signed a second bipartisan coronavirus response bill that focused on the immediate economic impact of the coronavirus. This legislation expanded paid sick leave to many Americans, cut restrictions on unemployment insurance for workers who have lost their jobs or had their hours cut, and guaranteed freed coronavirus testing. It also included significant emergency funding for Medicaid, nutrition assistance, state unemployment programs, and coronavirus testing at Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers.

Today’s legislation provides for $1,200 in direct payments to most Americans, and includes billions of dollars in lending and grant programs designed to help businesses, workers and municipalities survive this crisis, along with strong transparency and accountability measures to make sure that federal funding doesn’t go towards stock buybacks or bonuses for corporate executives. Today’s bipartisan bill also provides for $150 billion for hospitals and other public health infrastructure, part of an unprecedented investment that Sen. Warner and other Democrats fought to include as our frontline responders struggle under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic. It also includes an important change to existing tax policy allowing employers, for the first time, to use pre-tax dollars to help pay down employees’ student debt – provision modeled after Sen. Warner’s bipartisan Employer Participation in Repayment Act.

A more comprehensive list of Sen. Warner’s work to protect Americans amid the coronavirus outbreak is available here.  

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement after their legislation to treat Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund donations as tax-deductible contributions was signed into law:

“Following the horrific shooting in Virginia Beach, we were heartened to see the community come together to support victims and their families by helping alleviate some of the financial burden of the tragedy,” the Senators said. “Our bill will now make sure that the community’s generosity is treated appropriately by making donations to the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund tax-deductible. We are thrilled that Congress and the White House were able to put any partisanship aside and rapidly get this bill signed for the sake of Virginia Beach and the Commonwealth.”

On May 31, 2019, a gunman opened fire at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, killing 12 people and injuring four. Soon after, the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund was created to support the wounded victims and the families of those killed. However, because the fund was set up exclusively for the benefit of those affected by the tragedy, it violates a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable tax rule that requires a charitable organization to serve a charitable class of persons that is indefinite or of sufficient size. Accordingly, charitable funds can’t be earmarked for specific individuals. As a result, donors are not able to receive a tax deduction for their contributions. The Virginia Beach Strong Act rectifies this flaw by classifying any contribution made on or after May 31, 2019 through June 1, 2021 as tax-deductible.

Sens. Warner and Kaine, along with U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) have been fierce advocates for the victims and families affected by the May 31st shooting. Earlier this month, the Senators secured congressional passage of this legislation and in June, they wrote to the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to verify that victims and families were not being taxed on the contributions they were receiving. In August, the President signed into law legislation the Senators introduced to rename a Virginia Beach post office after Ryan “Keith” Cox, a longtime public utilities employee who, alongside other victims, sacrificed his own life to save others during the shooting. Additionally, the Senators secured unanimous passage earlier this year of a Senate resolution honoring the 12 victims of the Virginia Beach shooting.


###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded the Senate passage of the Virginia Beach Strong Act, a bill that would make contributions to the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund tax-deductible. The legislation cleared the Senate unanimously following Monday’s passage in the House of Representatives and will now head to President Trump’s desk for his signature.

“Following the tragic shooting in Virginia Beach, folks from across the Commonwealth came together to provide financial relief for victims and families by donating to the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund,” said the Senators. “Unfortunately, those donations aren’t considered tax-deductible because the IRS generally disallows a deduction unless the donations go towards a charitable class of sufficient size, as opposed to a small group of individuals. But with Congress passing the Virginia Beach Strong Act, we can now fix this error with a stroke of the President’s pen.”

U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“I am glad to see swift Senate passage of the Virginia Beach Strong Act and I thank Senators Warner and Kaine for their continued support of our Virginia Beach community following the May 31 mass shooting,” said Rep. Luria. “Six months later, many families of the victims are still facing financial hardships related to the shooting, in addition to the devastating loss of a loved one. I remain hopeful that President Trump will join this bicameral, bipartisan effort to support these families by signing into law the Virginia Beach Strong Act.” 

On May 31, 2019, a gunman opened fire at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, killing 12 people and injuring four. Soon after, the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund was created to support the wounded victims and the families of those killed. However, because the fund was set up exclusively for the benefit of those affected by the tragedy, it violates a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable tax rule that requires a charitable organization to serve a charitable class of persons that is indefinite or of sufficient size.  Accordingly, charitable funds can’t be earmarked for specific individuals. As a result, donations to the fund are not currently tax-deductible for those making the contributions. Once signed into law, the Virginia Beach Strong Act would rectify this flaw by classifying any contribution made on or after May 31, 2019 as tax-deductible.

Sens. Warner and Kaine, along with Rep. Luria have been fierce advocates for the victims and families affected by this mass shooting. In June, Sens. Warner and Kaine wrote to the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to verify that victims and families were not being taxed on the contributions they were receiving. In August, the President signed into law legislation the Senators introduced to rename a Virginia Beach post office after Ryan “Keith” Cox, a longtime public utilities employee who, alongside other victims, sacrificed his own life to save others during the shooting. Additionally, the Senators secured unanimous passage earlier this year of a Senate resolution honoring the 12 victims of the Virginia Beach shooting.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) said today that he was optimistic about the chances of passing bipartisan anti-money laundering legislation this Congress after the House voted yesterday to advance a bill that would curb illicit financial activities by requiring companies to disclose their true beneficial owners, and increasing information-sharing between law enforcement, financial institutions, and the Treasury Department.

Last month, Sen. Warner – along with Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Doug Jones (D-AL), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), John Kennedy (R-LA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Jerry Moran (R-KS) – introduced the Improving Laundering Laws and Increasing Comprehensive Information Tracking of Criminal Activity in Shell Holdings (ILLICIT CASH) Act, which would, for the first time, require shell companies – often used as fronts for criminal activity – to disclose their true owners to the U.S. Department of Treasury.

“Today’s House vote is an encouraging sign of progress on this important issue, and it demonstrates that there is widespread support in Congress for reforming our laws to combat money laundering, fight crime, and improve our national security,” said Sen. Warner following the House vote. “I appreciate the Treasury Department’s willingness to work with Congress on this matter, and am hopeful that the Senate will soon move forward on our bipartisan proposal to crack down on shell companies, while also prioritizing data security and protecting small businesses from unnecessary regulation.”

According to research from the University of Texas and Brigham Young University, the U.S. remains one of the easiest places in the world to set up an anonymous shell company. A recent report by Global Financial Integrity demonstrates that, in all 50 U.S. states, more information is required to obtain a library card than to register a company. Human traffickers, terrorist groups, arms dealers, transnational criminal organizations, kleptocrats, drug cartels, and rogue regimes have all used U.S.-registered shell companies to hide their identities and facilitate illicit activities. Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies find it increasingly difficult to investigate these illicit financial networks without access to information about the beneficial ownership of corporate entities involved.

The ILLICIT CASH Act would crack down on anonymous shell companies by requiring these companies to disclose their true owners to the U.S. Department of Treasury. It would also update decades-old anti-money laundering (AML) and combating the financing of terrorism (CFT) policies by giving Treasury and law enforcement the tools they need to fight criminal networks. A section-by-section analysis of this bill is available here. A one-pager is available here. The full text of the bill is available here

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), member of the Senate Finance Committee, along with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) have introduced legislation to provide financial relief to the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund to help Virginia Beach shooting victims get the financial assistance they need. The Virginia Beach Strong Act would ensure that any donations made to the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund on behalf of the families of the dead or wounded victims of the mass shooting in Virginia Beach are tax-deductible.

“There is nothing we can do to undo this tragedy or bring back the individuals we lost in this senseless act of violence, but we can try to make it as easy as possible for families and those injured to get the relief they need,” said the Senators. “This legislation will further incentivize donations to the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund by making sure that contributions to victims and families are permitted to be treated as charitable contributions.”

U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives that is supported by Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Rob Wittman (R-VA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Denver Riggleman (R-VA), Don Beyer (D-VA), A. Donald McEachin (D-VA), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), and Jennifer Wexton (D-VA).

“On May 31st, our Virginia Beach community experienced an unspeakable tragedy that led to the loss of 12 wonderful people,” Rep. Luria said. “In the wake of our community’s darkest day, we saw countless selfless people donate to provide relief for grieving families. I am introducing the Virginia Beach Strong Act to make it easier to help bring more urgently-needed support to grieving families.”

On May 31, 2019, a gunman opened fire at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, killing 12 people and injuring four. Soon after, the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund was created to support the wounded victims and the families of those killed. However, because the fund was set up exclusively for the benefit of those affected by the tragedy, it violates a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable tax rule that prohibits charitable funds from being earmarked for specific individuals. As a result, donations to the fund are not currently tax-deductible for those making the contributions.

The Virginia Beach Strong Act would clarify that any contribution made for the relief of the families of the dead or wounded victims is treated as a tax-deductible contribution. This legislation would also apply retroactively, classifying any such contribution made on or after May 31, 2019 as tax-deductible.

Sens. Warner and Kaine, along with Rep. Luria have been fierce advocates for the victims and families affected by this mass shooting. In August, they successfully passed bicameral legislation to rename a Virginia Beach post office after Ryan “Keith” Cox, a longtime public utilities employee who, alongside other victims, sacrificed his own life to save others during the shooting. In June, Sens. Warner and Kaine wrote to the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to verify that victims and families were not being taxed on the contributions they were receiving. Additionally, the Senators secured unanimous passage earlier this year of a Senate resolution honoring the 12 victims of the Virginia Beach shooting.

The full text of the bill is available here.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and 39 colleagues in urging Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin against unilaterally cutting capital gains taxes for the wealthiest Americans by an additional $100 billion over 10 years, an action that would defy longstanding Justice Department policy.

The request follows a letter signed by 21 Republican senators urging Secretary Mnuchin to circumvent Congress and index capital gains rates to inflation.

“Indexing capital gains would double down on the 2017 $1.5 trillion tax giveaway with at least another $100 billion tax cut. According to the Penn-Wharton Budget Model, more than 86 percent of the benefit of indexing capital gains would go to the top 1 percent of taxpayers, while just 2.5 percent of the benefit would go to the bottom 90 percent of Americans,” the Senators wrote.

Along with Warner, Kaine, and Wyden, the letter is signed by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Angus King (I-ME), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ed Markey (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tom Udall (D-NM), Tina Smith (D-MN), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Pat Leahy (D-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Gary Peters (D-MI), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

The full letter can be read below and HERE.

 

August 7, 2019

The Honorable Steven T. Mnuchin

Secretary of the Treasury

U.S. Department of the Treasury

1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20220

Secretary Mnuchin:

We strongly urge against executive action to index capital gains for inflation, and disagree with our 21 Republican colleagues who have urged you to circumvent Congress in a signed letter. This unilateral move would almost exclusively benefit the wealthiest Americans, add to the ballooning federal deficit, further complicate the tax code, and ignore longstanding Justice Department policy.

Indexing capital gains would double down on the 2017 $1.5 trillion tax giveaway with at least another $100 billion tax cut. According to the Penn-Wharton Budget Model, more than 86 percent of the benefit of indexing capital gains would go to the top 1 percent of taxpayers, while just 2.5 percent of the benefit would go to the bottom 90 percent of Americans.

As the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected, the 2017 tax cuts are not paying for themselves through increased revenue. The FY 2019 deficit is projected to be $896 billion, up from $666 billion in FY 2017.  Cutting capital gains taxes for the wealthy by indexing gains would only exacerbate this problem.

While indexing capital gains would unquestionably add to the deficit, the $100 billion price tag is a conservative estimate because it does not consider the resulting tax sheltering opportunities. If Treasury indexes capital gains for inflation but does not also index capital expenses, like interest and depreciation, taxpayers would only pay taxes on the real portion of their gains while still deducting their full, nominal expenses. Taxpayers could therefore use their losses on paper to offset tax owed. Indexing both gains and expenses for inflation, meanwhile, would increase the tax code’s complexity and the compliance burden on taxpayers.

The proposal would do little to nothing to boost the economy as it would provide a windfall for existing capital assets rather than incentivize new investment. The Congressional Research Service notes that “it is unlikely… that a significant, or any, effect on economic growth would occur from a stand-alone indexing proposal.” This is yet another policy that would fail American workers. 

Apart from these serious policy concerns, we do not believe Treasury has the authority to index capital gains through regulation. Such action would defy longstanding Congressional intent and Justice Department policy. The tax code has always assessed capital gains on the difference between the cost a person pays to acquire a security or property, reduced for cost-recovery deductions, (“basis” in tax parlance) and the price for which it was sold.

We agree with legal opinions written by the Treasury and Justice Departments in 1992 under President George H.W. Bush, which concluded that Congress intended the word “cost” to mean the price paid in nominal dollars without adjustment for inflation.  That plain language definition of cost first appeared in the Revenue Act of 1918 and now appears in Section 1012 of the tax code.

Incomplete legislative action on a policy also does not signal congressional intent. Although Congress has previously considered proposals to index capital gains for inflation, it has never enacted them. The policy preferences of individual members of Congress, even if they happen to comprise majorities of both Houses, have no legal weight until legislation is passed by both Houses and signed into law by the president. 

For example, during consideration of the Revenue Act of 1978, the House adopted a provision expressly indexing the basis of capital assets for inflation only to have the Senate reject this approach, choosing instead to increase the percentage of (nominal) capital gains that could be excluded. The Senate’s approach was ultimately enacted.

We again urge you to reject unilateral action on this issue. To do otherwise would illegally circumvent Congress to benefit the most fortunate Americans. A major policy change like this one should be considered by Congress through regular order, where it can be weighed against competing priorities, like upgrading our failing national infrastructure, investing in health care or shoring up Social Security.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Senate Banking Committee members U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Doug Jones (D-AL), and Mike Rounds (R-SD) today unveiled draft bipartisan legislation to improve corporate transparency, strengthen national security, and help law enforcement combat illicit financial activity being carried out by terrorists, drug and human traffickers, and other criminals. 

The Improving Laundering Laws and Increasing Comprehensive Information Tracking of Criminal Activity in Shell Holdings (ILLICIT CASH) Act would, for the first time, require shell companies – often used as fronts for criminal activity – to disclose their true owners to the U.S. Department of Treasury. It would also update decades-old anti-money laundering (AML) and combating the financing of terrorism (CFT) policies, by giving Treasury and law enforcement the tools they need to fight criminal networks. This includes improving overall communication between law enforcement, financial institutions, and regulators, and facilitating the adoption of critical 21st century technologies. 

“We must be vigilant and ensure that our financial system is not being misused to fund individuals and groups who intend harm to the United States and our allies,” said Sen. Warner. “This legislation will empower the Treasury Department and other appropriate agencies to better protect our financial system from such abuse, and will ensure that we are using all the tools at our disposal to protect our national security.”

“The United States ought to make it as difficult as possible for criminals and terrorists to finance their evil deeds. Our draft bill makes it easier for law enforcement to track ill-gotten gains without burdening legitimate businesses,” Sen. Cotton said.

“As a former U.S. Attorney, I am all too familiar with criminals hiding behind shell corporations to enable their illegal behavior. At the same time, our anti-money laundering laws have not kept pace with the increasingly sophisticated means by which criminals and terrorist organizations use our financial system to move their money around the world. This bipartisan legislation addresses both challenges and gives law enforcement the tools they need to protect Americans and prosecute criminals,” said Sen. Jones.

"Fighting crime and depriving terrorists of the tools they use to engage in illicit activity within our financial system is vital to protecting Americans,” said Sen. Rounds. “Our legislation seeks to protect our financial system from bad actors by streamlining our government's anti-money laundering system and simultaneously protecting small businesses from undue compliance burdens. I'm proud to partner with my colleagues on this important legislation and look forward to advancing it in the Senate.”

According to research from the University of Texas and Brigham Young University, the U.S. remains one of the easiest places in the world to set up an anonymous shell company. A recent report by Global Financial Integrity demonstrates that, in all 50 U.S. states, more information is currently required to obtain a library card than to register a company. Human traffickers, terrorist groups, arms dealers, transnational criminal organizations, kleptocrats, drug cartels, and rogue regimes have all used U.S.-registered shell companies to hide their identities and facilitate illicit activities. Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies find it increasingly difficult to investigate these illicit financial networks without access to information about the beneficial ownership of corporate entities involved.

At the same time, U.S. AML-CFT laws have not kept pace with the growing exploitation of the global financial system to facilitate criminal activity.  According to a United Nations Report, money laundering activity and illicit cross-border financial flows have generated upwards of $300 billion annually in criminal proceeds. While tracking these growing sums is increasingly difficult, U.S. laws have also failed to adequately address the small dollar financing of global terrorist groups. 

Given the critical importance of cracking down on criminal shell companies and the need to combat money laundering and terrorism, the ILLICIT CASH Act envisions a more transparent corporate ownership system and an updated, effective and efficient AML-CFT regime designed for the 21st century. Specifically, this legislation would:

  • Establish federal reporting requirements mandating that all beneficial ownership information be maintained in a comprehensive federal database, accessible by federal and local law enforcement.
  • Help recruit and retain top talent at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) by putting employees on a pay scale comparable to that of federal financial regulators.
  • Create a hub of financial expert investigators at FinCEN to investigate potential AML-CFT activity in collaboration with federal government agencies.
  • Create a team of FinCEN technology experts to further the development of new and essential technologies that can assist financial institutions and the federal government in their efforts to combat money laundering.
  • Facilitate communications between the Treasury and financial institutions by establishing a Treasury financial institution liaison to seek and receive comments regarding AML-CFT rules, regulations, and examinations.
  • Require the Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide the Treasury Department with metrics on the usefulness of AML-CFT data from financial institutions for law enforcement purposes, as well as data on the past and current trends identified by DOJ in the AML-CFT landscape.
  • Require law enforcement to coordinate with financial regulators to provide periodic feedback to financial institutions on their suspicious activity reports.
  • Prioritize the protection of personally identifying information while establishing a clear path for financial institutions to share AML-CFT information for the purposes of identifying suspicious activity.
  • Prevent foreign banks from obstructing money laundering or terrorist financing investigations by requiring these banks to produce records in a manner that establishes their authenticity and reliability for evidentiary purposes, and compelling them to comply with subpoenas. This legislation would also authorize contempt sanctions for banks that fail to comply.
  • Ensure the inclusion of current and future payment systems in the AML-CFT regime by updating the definition of “coins and currency” to include digital currency.

Sens. Warner, Cotton, Jones, and Rounds are now seeking input from stakeholders regarding their draft legislation. Submissions can be made to Sen. Warner’s office at AML-BSAReform@warner.senate.gov by July 19, 2019.

For an in-depth look at this bill, click here. The full text of the bill is available here.  

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WASHINGTON – The Senate just unanimously passed bipartisan legislation sponsored by U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) to provide tax relief to the children of military members killed in service to their country. This legislation corrects one of the many unintended consequences of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 – legislation forced through by the GOP that, among other things, treats military and VA survivor benefits as trusts or estates, subjecting the benefits of many military families to a much higher tax rate. The Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act effectively fixes this error by treating any military and VA survivor benefits as earned income, rather than at the trust or parent tax rate. Companion legislation has been introduced by Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) in the House of Representatives, which now must vote to send the bill to the President’s desk for signature.

“Gold Star families deserve our sympathy and gratitude, not an unfair tax increase thanks to a Congressional screw-up,” said the Senators. We’re glad the Senate has decide to fix this mistake, and we hope the House will take action swiftly to ensure that Gold Star families aren’t hit with a tax hike.”

Under current law, spouses of deceased service members are eligible to receive two different survivor benefits – the Department of Veterans Affairs' Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, as well as the Department of Defense (DOD) Survivor Benefits Plan. However, surviving spouses are not currently able to receive both benefits simultaneously in full, and many of these spouses choose to sign the taxable DOD benefit over to their children. Prior to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, children receiving this benefit were taxed at the parent’s rate, but due to changes in the law, survivor benefits going to children are now treated as a trust or estate, and can be taxed up to 37 percent. This change has affected Gold Star families, who previously paid an average of 12 to 15 percent in taxes on this survivor benefit and have now been forced to pay significantly more without adequate preparation.

As a retroactive bill, the Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act would refund Gold Star families who were taxed the higher rate, going back as far as December 31, 2017.

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