MSNBC Host projects that ‘Civil War is here’

Revelations 2:5 “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

Important Takeaways:

  • ‘Civil war is here’ thanks to ‘MAGA mob’: MSNBC’s Tiffany Cross
  • It was the second time in a week Cross invoked fears of a ‘civil war’ having already started in the U.S.
  • Cross made the incendiary remarks in her opening monologue
  • “In the last two weeks threats against the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have surged and even some GOP senators are getting in on the act, depicting number crunchers at the IRS as thought they’ll be bursting through doors like the Kool-Aid man for tax infractions.”
  • “The spike of violent rhetoric on MAGA message boards is reminiscent of what occurred before the deadly January 6 insurrection. We all remember that,” she said, before making her stunning pronouncement.
  • “It’s not like the civil war is coming, it feels like the civil war is here,” Cross declared.
  • The host made a similar claim earlier this week when she guest hosted for MSNBC’s “The ReidOut.” “People keep saying a civil war is coming, I would say a civil war is here,” she stated during the broadcast.

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Inflation Reduction Act expanded IRS budget by 600%. Some claim this investment will bring in more than $200 billion in revenue. But from who?

  • An IRS Army of 87,000 New Enforcers and ‘700,000 New Audits’ on Middle-Class Americans?
  • $80 billion to expand the IRS, including tens of thousands of new IRS enforcers
  • The bill is set to more than double the IRS’ current workforce, making it one of the largest federal agencies and increasing its budget by roughly 600 percent.
  • “Democrats claim this ‘investment’ will yield more than $200 billion in revenue. That estimate is highly speculative, but if it’s anywhere close to right, IRS auditors will soon be coming after tens of millions of Americans.”
  • “Democrats want to make the IRS larger than the Pentagon, the State Department, the FBI, and the Border Patrol combined,” Cruz wrote. “That’s a terrible idea. We should abolish the IRS!”
  • And Joel Griffith with the Heritage Foundation confirms, “If you look at the past, the audits disproportionately impact those that are middle class, upper middle-class income earners. Those are the ones who get targeted by this.”
  • The Wall Street Journal makes it clear that’s a legitimate concern for the middle class, writing, “The Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress’s official tax scorekeeper, says that from 78% to 90% of the money raised from under-reported income would likely come from those making less than $200,000 a year. Only 4% to 9% would come from those making more than $500,000.”

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U.S. senators ask IRS if hacking campaign compromised taxpayer data

By Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two top U.S. Senators on Thursday said they were seeking answers on whether the recent hacking attack against the federal government compromised U.S. taxpayers’ data, which could make millions of Americans more vulnerable to identity theft and other crimes.

As officials continued to assess damage from the cyberattack, U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and ranking Democrat Ron Wyden asked the Internal Revenue Service whether the tax agency was affected and, if so, what it was doing to mitigate the fallout and protect against further intrusions.

The sweeping campaign, done by hackers believed to be working for Russia, leveraged technology from SolarWinds Corp used by multiple U.S. government agencies and other businesses, Reuters has reported.

The U.S. government has not publicly identified who might be behind the massive intrusion, and several U.S. lawmakers on Thursday said it appeared that U.S. officials were still analyzing the impact of the attack.

“I think the government is still assessing how bad the damage is,” Senator Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence panel, told MSNBC in an interview.

Grassley and Wyden, in their letter, sought an immediate briefing from IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig on the impact to U.S. taxpayers, whose sensitive financial records are filed each year with the agency.

The IRS has used SolarWinds technology as recently as 2017, they said.

“Given the extreme sensitivity of personal taxpayer information entrusted to the IRS, and the harm both to Americans’ privacy and our national security that could result from the theft and exploitation of this data by our adversaries, it is imperative that we understand the extent to which the IRS may have been compromised,” the senators wrote.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by David Gregorio)

U.S. direct payments likely to begin April 13: House panel

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Americans should start receiving direct deposit payments from the U.S. government around April 13 to help them cope with the coronavirus pandemic, but others may have to wait until mid-September to receive paper checks, according to a key congressional committee.

The government is expected to distribute 60 million payments of up to $1,200 per individual using bank deposit information gleaned from 2018 and 2019 income tax filings during the week of April 13, according to a memo from Democrats on the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee.

But it will not begin to send out paper checks to those who do not have bank deposit information on file until about 21 days later on May 4, according to the memo, which was reviewed by Reuters.

The IRS expects to issue checks at a rate of about 5 million a week, meaning that some Americans may have to wait 20 weeks. Under the schedule, the last checks would not arrive until around Sept. 21.

“This timeline is subject to change,” the memo noted.

The money is intended to help individuals and families offset the economic impact of the pandemic. Government officials hope to see the coronavirus die out during the warmer summer months, though health experts have warned of a possible resurgence in the fall.

(Reporting by David Morgan; editing by Andy Sullivan, Chizu Nomiyama and Leslie Adler)

House Democrats to test Republicans on Trump’s wall demand

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) arrives for a House Democratic party caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – On the 19th day of a partial U.S. government shutdown, Democrats were set on Wednesday to test Republicans’ resolve in backing President Donald Trump’s drive to build a wall on the border with Mexico, which has sparked an impasse over agency funding.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats, who took control of the chamber last week, plan to advance a bill to immediately reopen the Treasury Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and several other agencies that have been partially shut down since Dec. 22.

Democrats are eager to force Republicans to choose between funding the Treasury’s Internal Revenue Service – at a time when it should be gearing up to issue tax refunds to millions of Americans – and voting to keep it partially shuttered.

In a countermove, the Trump administration said on Tuesday that even without a new shot of funding, the IRS would somehow make sure those refund checks get sent.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told Fox News on Wednesday that Trump was still considering a declaration of a national emergency to circumvent Congress and redirect government funds toward the wall.

The Republican president’s push for a massive barrier on the border has dominated the Washington debate and sparked a political blame game as both Trump and Democrats remain dug in.

In a nationally televised address on Tuesday night, Trump asked: “How much more American blood must be shed before Congress does its job?” referring to murders he said were committed by illegal immigrants.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell opened the Senate on Wednesday with an attack on Democrats for not supporting Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion for the wall.

But Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Trump’s speech was a rehash of spurious arguments and misleading statistics.

“The president continues to fearmonger and he makes up the facts,” Schumer said.

DEMOCRATIC TACTICS

Later in the week, Pelosi plans to force votes that one-by-one provide the money to operate departments ranging from Homeland Security and Justice to State, Agriculture, Commerce and Labor.

By using a Democratic majority to ram those bills through the House, Pelosi is hoping enough Senate Republicans back her up and abandon Trump’s wall gambit.

The political maneuvering comes amid a rising public backlash over the suspension of some government activities that has resulted in the layoffs of hundreds of thousands of federal workers.

Other “essential” employees are being required to report to work, but without pay for the time being.

As House Democrats plow ahead, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will go to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to attend a weekly closed lunch meeting of Senate Republicans.

They are expected to urge them to hold firm on his wall demands, even as some are publicly warning their patience is wearing thin.

Later in the day, Trump is scheduled to host bipartisan congressional leaders to see if they can break the deadlock. On Thursday, Trump travels to the border to highlight an immigration “crisis” that his base of conservative supporters wants him to address.

With tempers running high over Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion just for this year to fund wall construction, there are doubts Pelosi’s plan will succeed in forcing the Senate to act.

McConnell has not budged from his hard line of refusing to bring up any government funding bill that does not have Trump’s backing even as a few moderate members of his caucus have called for an end to the standoff.

The funding fight stems from Congress’ inability to complete work by a Sept. 30, 2018, deadline on funding all government agencies. It did, however, appropriate money for about 75 percent of the government by that deadline – mainly military and health-related programs.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Amanda Becker and Susan Heavey; Editing by Bill Trott and Alistair Bell)

IRS gives taxpayers one-day extension after computer glitch

A general view of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building in Washington May 27, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Internal Revenue Service said it would give taxpayers an additional day to file their 2017 returns after computer problems prevented some people from filing or paying their taxes ahead of Tuesday’s midnight deadline.

“Taxpayers do not need to do anything to receive this extra time,” the IRS said in a statement announcing the extension.

The agency said its processing systems were now back online.

Earlier, the agency said several systems were hit with the computer glitch, including one that handles some returns filed electronically and another that accepts online tax payments using a bank account.

The IRS said it believed the problem was a hardware issue and “not other factors.”

It was not clear how many taxpayers might have been affected, but the agency said it received 5 million tax returns on the final day of filing season last year.

“This is the busiest tax day of the year, and the IRS apologizes for the inconvenience this system issue caused for taxpayers,” acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter said in a statement.

The agency said taxpayers should continue to file their taxes as normal on Tuesday evening – whether electronically or on paper.

Taxpayers could also ask for six-month extensions, as President Donald Trump did. The White House said on Tuesday that Trump, because of the complexity of his tax returns, would file his by Oct. 15.

(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Diane Craft and Chris Reese)

Your Money: New U.S. gift tax strategies could alter giving

U.S. 1040 Individual Income Tax forms are seen in New York March 18, 2013. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

By Beth Pinsker

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Get a big money check from a wealthy great aunt every year for your birthday? Parents buying you a car? Grandparents paying for private school tuition?

How generous they are could be changing very soon.

When somebody gives a big cash gift, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service wants a cut of it. This year, the IRS adjusted the annual limit that escapes taxation, upping it to $15,000 from $14,000.

A more important change that came with the new tax rules: the estate tax limit doubled in 2018 to $11 million per person from $5.49 million.

That boost in giving potential could make people change their behavior, but, as always, family dynamics make things tricky.

One strategy for those who were over the previous estate limit was to give away money on a yearly basis so they did not owe taxes when they died. With the new rules, couples with less than $22 million do not have to worry about parceling out annual gifts and may choose more long-term giving strategies.

Some may also choose to structure large gifts as loans, and then simply forgive the loan over time up to the annual $15,000 amount, said Marc Bloostein, an estate lawyer who is a partner at Ropes Gray in Boston. Bloostein cautioned that the key to this is good record-keeping.

Those giving away money now simply to be generous will likely keep giving at the $15,000 amount annually, said Mark Smith, a certified financial planner at Vision Wealth Planning in Richmond, Virginia.

PARENTAL HELP

Smith typically sees baby boomers helping millennial children with student loan payments and mortgages. He also sees parents making their kids’ retirement contributions, giving them money to put in an IRA or Roth account.

The contributions can add up. Bloostein works with couples who give combined cash gifts to more than 12 family members. “When they give out $30,000 to each one, that’s a huge amount,” he said.

Gift recipients sometimes become dependent on the cash influx, so if the givers change strategy, it could be a rude awakening. But wealthy families may still be interested in reducing their estates because some states have much lower estate tax limits, such as $1 million in Massachusetts.

The older generation also makes a lot of additional payments directly to private schools, colleges and healthcare providers. These skirt the annual limits and do not count as gifts.

But be careful with this approach if there is big disparity in income between grandparents and parents filling out financial aid forms, because the gifts could lower awards. A smarter strategy may be to have grandparents chip in junior year of college, or to pay off loans after graduation, said financial aid consultant Kalman Chany, president of Campus Consultants Inc in New York.

More complications arise when real assets are involved, like a house or a car. Morris Armstrong, a registered investment adviser and enrolled agent tax accountant in Danbury, Connecticut, had an unmarried couple file a gift tax return when they bought a house together – one put up $150,000, but the other was included on the deed.

Sometimes generosity has a darker side, when gifts are used as a means of control, or to assuage guilt, Armstrong noted.

“If kids run into debt, parents sometimes feel a sense of failure, and they are bailing kids out to their own detriment,” Armstrong said.

Financial professionals caution that even if you do not owe tax, it is best to file the proper gift tax forms at the time of the gift. Bloostein has seen a number of situations where gifts had to reconciled during the estate settlement process, and taxes paid.

While the IRS might not catch up with you right away, they will eventually. “It’s not unusual for them to audit an estate tax return,” Bloostein said.

Even when lower estate limits were in force, only 2,700 people owed gift tax in 2016, the last year of data available from the IRS. Most gave away more than $1 million. The other 200,000 gift tax returns owed no tax; the filers were simply reporting the transactions and counting them against their lifetime exclusion amount.

(Editing by Lauren Young and Jonathan Oatis)

IRS puts Equifax contract on hold during security review

FILE PHOTO: Credit reporting company Equifax Inc. corporate offices are pictured in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Tami Chappell/File Photo

By John McCrank

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. Internal Revenue Service has temporarily suspended a contract worth more than $7 million it recently awarded to Equifax Inc following a security issue with the beleaguered credit reporting agency’s website on Thursday.

Equifax, which disclosed last month that cyber criminals breached its systems between mid-May and late July and made off with sensitive data on 145.5 million people, said on Thursday it shut down one of its website pages after discovering that a third-party vendor was running malicious code on the page.

“The IRS notified us that they have issued a stop-work order under our Transaction Support for Identity Management contract,” an Equifax spokesperson said on Friday.

“We remain confident that we are the best party to perform the services required in this contract,” the spokesperson said. “We are engaging IRS officials to review the facts and clarify available options.”

The IRS is the first organization to say publicly that it is suspending a contract with Equifax since the credit reporting agency’s security problems came to light.

Atlanta-based Equifax said its systems were not compromised by the incident on Thursday, which involved bogus pop-up windows on the web page that could trick visitors into installing software that automatically displays advertising material.

Still, the IRS said it decided to temporarily suspended its short-term contract with Equifax for identity-proofing services.

“During this suspension, the IRS will continue its review of Equifax systems and security,” the agency said in a statement. There was no indication that any of the IRS data shared with Equifax under the contract had been compromised, it added.

The move means that the IRS will temporarily be unable to create new accounts for taxpayers using its Secure Access portal, which supports applications including online accounts and transcripts. Users who already had Secure Access accounts will not be affected, the IRS said.

IRS granted the $7.25 million contract to Equifax on Sept. 29, weeks after Equifax disclosed the massive data hack that drew scathing criticism from several lawmakers.

“From its initial announcement, the timing and nature of this IRS-Equifax contract raised some serious red flags … we are pleased to see the IRS suspend its contract with Equifax,” Republican Representatives Greg Walden and Robert Latta said in a joint statement on Friday.

“Our focus now remains on protecting consumers and getting answers for the 145 million Americans impacted by this massive breach,” they said.

Government contracts in areas such as healthcare, law enforcement, social services, and tax and revenue, are major sources of revenue for Equifax.

In 2016, government services made up 5 percent of Equifax’s overall $3.1 billion in revenue, accounting for 10 percent of its workforce solutions revenues, 3 percent of its U.S. information solutions revenues, and 7 percent of its international revenues, according to a regulatory financial filing.

(Reporting by John McCrank in New York; additional reporting by Dustin Volz in Washington; Editing by Bill Rigby)

U.S. charges 61 over India-based IRS impersonation scam

A policeman escorts men who they said were arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of tricking American citizens into sending them money by posing as U.S. tax officials, at a court in Thane, on the outskirts of Mumbai, India

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department charged 61 people and entities on Thursday with taking part in a scam involving India-based call centers where agents impersonated Internal Revenue Service, immigration and other federal officials and demanded payments for non-existent debts.

The scam, which had operated since 2013, targeted at least 15,000 people who lost more than $300 million, the department said in a statement.

The defendants, who were indicted by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on Oct. 19, included 32 people and five call centers in India and 24 people in nine U.S. states, the statement said.

The indictment said the operators of the call centers in Ahmedabad, in the Indian state of Gujarat, “threatened potential victims with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay taxes or penalties to the government.”

Payments by victims were laundered by a U.S. network of co-conspirators using prepaid debit cards or wire transfers, often using stolen or fake identities, the statement said.

The call centers also ran scams in which victims were offered short-term loans or grants on condition of providing good-faith deposits or payment of a processing fee, it said.

The investigation involved Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Treasury, Homeland Security, U.S. Secret Service and police officials, the Justice Department said.

(Reporting by Eric Walsh; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Frances Kerry)

India arrests 70 call-center workers accused of duping U.S. citizens

Police escort men who they said were arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of tricking American citizens into sending them money by posing as U.S. tax officials, at a court in Thane, on the outskirts of Mumbai, India,

By Devidutta Tripathy

MUMBAI (Reuters) – Police in India said they arrested 70 call-centre workers on Wednesday on suspicion of tricking American citizens into sending them money by posing as U.S. tax officials.

A total of 772 workers were detained earlier on Wednesday in raids on nine call centers in a Mumbai suburb, a senior police official told Reuters. Seventy were placed under formal arrest, 630 were released pending questioning over the coming days, and 72 were freed without further investigation.

“The motive was earning money,” said Parag Manere, a deputy commissioner of police. “They were running an illegal process, posing themselves as officers of the (U.S.) Internal Revenue Service.”

The police official did not identify the company where the call center workers were employed, or any of the main players involved in the alleged scam. He also declined comment on whether Mumbai police were investigating in conjunction with U.S. authorities, or comment on what prompted the inquiry.

Manere said the alleged scammers asked Americans to buy prepaid cash cards in order to settle outstanding tax debts and also used the threat of arrest against people who did not pay up.

Last year, a Pennsylvania man who helped coordinate a fraud in which India-based callers preyed on vulnerable Americans by pretending to be U.S. government agents was sentenced to 14-1/2 years in prison.

India is home to a vast number of back office operations for North American and European companies. Thousands of call centers in India provide back office services to these firms, processing everything from utility payments to credit card bills.

While such business arrangements help Western companies cut costs, there have been frequent allegations of security breaches and improper trading of consumers’ account details and other commercial information for profit.

(Reporting by Devidutta Tripathy; Editing by Euan Rocha and Mark Heinrich)