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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘taxes’

Behind Salam Fayyad’s Call for ‘Economic Intifada’

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Salam Fayyad, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, this week called for an economic Intifada against Israel.

See related Cartoon

Fayyad, whose government is facing a severe financial crisis, wants Palestinians to boycott all Israeli goods in response to Israel’s decision to seize tax revenues belonging to the Palestinian Authority.

The revenues were seized and transferred to the Israel Electric Company to cover Palestinians’ debts to the firm.

Fayyad is angry because the Israel Electric Company finally collected its debts from Palestinian consumers. Speaking to Palestinian reporters in Ramallah, he denounced the transfer of the funds to the company as “illegal and immoral.”

Fayyad knows better than anyone else that, for various reasons, many Palestinians have not been paying their electricity bills.

Many Palestinians refuse to pay water, electricity and other bills because they believe the international community, primarily the Americans and Europeans, should be covering all their expenses. Others refuse to pay because they believe the money eventually falls into the hands of corrupt Palestinian Authority officials.

Earlier this year, the Palestinian Authority announced a series of measures to persuade Palestinian consumers to pay their electricity bills, but to no avail. The Palestinian Authority even announced a new law that allows it to imprison any Palestinian who is caught practicing the widespread phenomenon of “electricity theft.”

Because of the financial crisis, Fayyad’s government has also failed to pay full salaries to its employees, sparking a two-day general strike of the public sector in the West Bank.

The transfer of funds to the Israel Electric Company, and the Arab world’s failure to fulfill promises to support the Palestinian Authority financially, have created a severe financial crisis in the Palestinian Authority.

This is not the first time that Arab countries lie to Palestinians. Over the past two decades, Arab nations have promised the Palestinians billions of dollars in aid. But, according to officials in Ramallah, the Palestinians have received less than 10% of what they had been promised.

Instead of seeking ways to solve the crisis, however, Fayyad chose to call on Palestinians to boycott all Israeli goods. How does that help solve the financial crisis? Fayyad did not have an answer. He just wants to punish Israel for collecting on the debt for the electricity bills.

He is hoping that by calling for an economic intifada, he will succeed in diverting growing anger and frustration on the Palestinian street towards the Israelis. This has always been the Palestinian Authority’s way of avoiding responsibility for anything that goes wrong — by putting all the blame on Israel.

Fayyad wants Palestinians to boycott Israel, but at the same time is unable to provide them with better alternatives. Does he really think that Palestinians will stop buying Israeli-manufactured medicine, for example?

As one Palestinian public servant asked, “How can our prime minister ask us to boycott Israeli goods when we can’t even afford to purchase Palestinian goods because he’s not paying us our salaries?”

Added another Palestinian who has been working as a school teacher for 25 years: “If Fayyad wants us to boycott Israel, why doesn’t he himself set an example? Why is he living in Jerusalem, under Israeli rule, and enjoying, together with his family, most privileges offered to Israeli citizens? Today, I’m ready to go and work in an Israeli settlement to feed my children and I don’t care whether Fayyad likes it or not.”

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.

And the Powerball Numbers Are…

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

The record Powerball lottery – $550 million ($360.2 million as a cash option before taxes) – goes to numbers 5, 23, 16, 22, 23, 29 and powerball 6.

The jackpot was initially listed at $450, then jumped to $500 million on Tuesday, stopping at $550 million Wednesday morning.

 

Israel Gives Palestinians NIS 200 Million

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Galei Tzahal reports that despite Israeli threats to withhold money if the Palestinian Authority doesn’t stop its UN bid for statehood, Israel transferred on Tuesday NIS 200 million (around $50 Million) to the Palestinian Authority to help them pay salaries. The money was paid from taxes collected o behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

One wonders why that money isn’t being used to buy more Iron Dome missiles which cost around $50,000 a pop, or build more bomb shelters, or to repair buildings damaged by the Palestinians.

The City that has Problems with Synagogues

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

My congressional campaign is over, but one of the main reasons I ran remains. What first impelled me to seek public office was the feeling of powerlessness to stop Muammar Kaddafi from coming to stay in the home immediately next door to me in Englewood, N.J., in the autumn of 2009.

And though we ultimately succeeded, with God’s blessing, in pushing him out, I could not persuade my city to challenge the tax exemption of an international terrorist which forced me, and all the other residents of Englewood, to be complicit in evil in having to subsidize a murderous government’s compound in our midst. (The staff living there did not have the decency to even once lower their flag to half-staff in the wake of the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi.)

If only my city were to treat me with the same courtesy they accorded Kaddafi.

For the past year my congregants and I have been locked in a bitter struggle with Englewood to get our home properly zoned as a Synagogue. We have hosted prayer, religious services, and educational events for more than 13 years, but the city continues to cite us as requiring a variance in order to host communal worship. The same city that could not, for three decades, muster the courage to challenge the Libyans’ tax-exempt presence in our town has obstructed a fair hearing of our congregants’ right to establish a house of worship. As the Chairman of our Board, Michael Fromm, has put it, “It’s an outrage. We have had hearings canceled for nefarious reasons, the rules have been changed mid-game, city officials have abused their power to thwart us, board members have publicly displayed prejudice against us, and we have been held to a higher standard than international terrorists.”

The city’s efforts to block our Synagogue application have been brazen. First, they canceled our hearing at the Board of Adjustment – for which we had prepared for months at considerable expense – on the very same day it was to take place on October 24, 2011. Then, after having our hearing unlawfully canceled by one Board, we spent thousands more to ready ourselves for a hearing at the Planning Board, appointed and overseen by the City’s mayor, Frank Huttle. Unbelievably, they too found a legal loophole to deny us from even being heard. The full video of the hearing is available here and you may draw your own conclusions as to the fairness of their arguments and vote.

So, thousands of dollars later we were back at the Board of Adjustment for a hearing scheduled for May 21, 2012. Then, just a week before the hearing we were forwarded a letter, authored by Ken Albert, the City Engineer, dated March 27, 2012, that demanded, for the first time, a host of new improvements in order for us to even qualify for the hearing. Bizarrely, the city stamped his letter April 24th, 2012, suggesting they had sat on the letter for a full month prior to forwarding it, thereby making it impossible for our hearing to go ahead as planned.

We acquired a new date of June 25, 2012 only to have that hearing canceled by Chairwoman Rosemary Byrne a mere four hours before it was scheduled, wasting thousands more of our organization’s money. Was the city’s strategy to have us squander all our funds without even a hearing so that we would throw in the towel?

We finally decided to go public about the many obstacles and cancellations thrown in our path for the creation of a House of Worship, while leaving the Libyans to live peacefully at Englewood taxpayer expense. We also prepared a Federal lawsuit against the city under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Once the newspaper reports appeared, we were granted a hearing.

We’ve had two since. Unfortunately, the hearings have been characterized by what would seem to be a predetermined outcome. A simple read of the transcripts provides a great deal of illumination, with one board member in particular, Harry Reidler, seeming particularly vexed by our application.

Reidler, who is a member of the local Democratic Municipal Committee, several times raised my Congressional bid in the district (Republican) even though it was never germane to our Synagogue’s application. When, for the first time, he brought up my race for Congress he was interrupted three times by the Chairwoman and told, “Wait.” Still he objected, saying ‘…I mean, we know that this Rabbi is running for Congress.”

Egypt’s Finance Minister: IMF Deal by this Weekend

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

The Egyptian government will most likely sign a memorandum of understanding with the International Monetary Fund for a $4.5 billion loan before the weekend, Egypt’s Finance Minister Momtaz El-Said told reporters.

Al Ahram reports that Egypt’s government is planning to eliminate subsidies on gasoline, in line with IMF recommendations, in order to convince the IMF that it is serious about economic reform and to close the deal.

The Egyptian government needs the $4.5 billion loan to reduce its budget deficit, which stands at 11% of GDP, as well as manage a balance-of-payments deficit that has so far cost more than $20 billion in foreign reserves, since the toppling of Hosni Mubarak last year.

Government officials have proposed austerity measures, including cutting fuel subsidies, raising sales taxes on goods and services, taxing stock exchange IPOs, higher taxes on phone calls, cars, cigarettes, liquor, carbonated drinks, coffee beans and water-resistant cement.

Weatherman calling for food riots with a chance of mayhem.

Romney by Points, Obama Still Underpresent, Candy Crowley Not the Greatest Hall Monitor

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

I made the mistake of letting the CNN feed linger beyond the hour and a half of the second presidential debate tonight, and so I realized, as I often do in these cases, that the folks around the discussion table and I come from alternate universes—very close, many of the same details on both my and their planet Earth, but still different universes.

They said something about the president being forceful and challenging Romney at every turn, reversing the trend, stopping the bleeding.

I saw President Obama still finding it difficult to sound cool and calculated without his trusted teleprompter. Romney is also not the captain of the debating team, but compared with his opponent he came across coherent, strong, self assured.

This has nothing to do with my opinion of which one of these two men is better suited to be president, only with their performances tonight. And I’m beginning to think a freestyle conversation, just like a structured debate, is not something President Obama is good at.

I took copious notes, so I’m ready to do the play by play to make my point, but first a note about tonight’s moderator, CNN’s Candy Crowley: decidedly not Martha Raddatz. Where Raddatz was authoritative while allowing Joe Biden and Paul Ryan some moving room to make their points – Crowley was all about making sure the next Hofstra student got a chance to ask his or her question. Instead of helping the candidates, she tripped them, consistently denying both of them the chance to respond to one another’s charges.

I wanted to hear those responses, and definitely cared more about what either candidate had to say about the other’s allegations than I did about whether or not every kid on Crowley’s list got to show America how bright they were (they weren’t—you got the feeling each question was an obvious softball for one of the candidates, Romney even thanked one of them for a question that served his campaign needs, letting him massage away the 47% freeloaders thing).

Crowley was less informed, less agile, less introspective, and in the end far less effective than Raddatz. To her credit, though, she was equally annoying to both candidates, cutting them off about the same number of times when they were in the middle of saying something interesting, or just going to.

So, now, the play by play.

The first question was: How can you reassure me that I will have a job when I graduate. It brought on a minor clash between the two men over the Detroit bankruptcy. Romney said that what he meant by his “let it go bankrupt” remark was that GM and the rest of the big car makers needed to undergo a court monitored Chapter 11 procedure, and emerge prosperous in the end. He lied, of course. He meant let them drop dead–check out You Tube. Obama managed to capitalize on the opportunity and called Romney on it, developing the point into an attack on Romney’s record in business and as governor.

But even that early in the game it became obvious that no matter how good a strike Obama will get tonight, he couldn’t hit it out of the park. He ended up making the necessary argument, but his delivery was choppy, he paused to think way too frequently in mid-sentence, in a manner that almost made me lose interest in his final answer.

He reminded me of those endless debates he had with Hillary, back in 2008, when Obama just couldn’t deliver the knockout punch. It’s not his strong suit. He’s not eager enough. Maybe he’s not that kind of a fighter. He is better at jabbing for points and avoiding being knocked down. But that makes for boring television.

Both candidates were stiff and reserved on the question “Do you agree that it’s not the job of the Energy Dept. to lower gas prices.” It was a strangely phrased question, too, not dealing with the issue of whether or not gas prices were too high, but with government’s role in tweaking them.

Of course, Romney took it to the arena of gas prices being too high (up from $1.80 under Bush to $4 today – although I thought it was more like $2.50 under Bush), saying Obama cut drilling licenses on federal land. Obama explained there were too many license holders who didn’t use them, and those were eliminated. He sounded presidential for a brief moment, showing deeper knowledge than his opponent of the working of government. But he didn’t relate specifically to the actual price shifts at the pump, letting Romney win the round on points.

On tax deductions and tax credits, Romney set the record straight on his own tax policy. He will not reduce taxes on the rich and will not increase taxes on the middle class. Addressing one of the main items Democrats present as his plan, Romney was forceful in saying it ain’t so.

Obama said he cut taxes 18 times and reduced taxes by $2,500. He added that it’s Republicans in Congress who are holding the middle class hostage, until they’re allowed to to cut taxes for the top 2%.

Romney challenged him quite comfortably, avoiding any reference to the stonewalling Republican House, naturally. He promised he would bring tax rates down, emphasized that he’s not interested in cutting taxes for the rich—they will continue to pay 60% in income taxes.

No, they won’t, of course, because their teams of attorneys would make sure of that. But Romney sounded extremely confident in stating, for the record, that he didn’t have a soft spot in his heart for billionaires.

Obama said Romany’s math doesn’t add up. He challenged Romney to show specifics. How would he cut taxes and increase spending on the military, for instance, without adding deficits?

This is one of Romney’s weakest points, and so he attacked Obama’s deficits, and didn’t offer specifics on his own plan. And Obama let him get away with it. This time it wasn’t the moderator’s fault. Obama remained seated and let the opportunity go by without hitting Romney hard on his “voodoo” economics .

In what ways do you plan to rectify inequalities in the workplace for women’s pay?

This was a softball for Obama. Romney, who answered first, proceeded to talk about his record as governor, with Massachusetts hiring more women than any other state. He promised flexible hours, so mothers can keep their jobs and take care of their families (when do these women sleep?). He attacked Obama on women’s unemployment under his stewardship. Well, sure, if you have 20 million unemployed Americans, 10 million are liable to be women. But Romney scored better than his opponent on women in the workplace, and for a Republican this is found money.

Obama attacked Romney on Planned Parenthood, which Romney had said he would eliminate. Once again, the president missed out on one of his biggest advantages over Romney. Even women who plan to vote Republican are afraid of what that would do to Roe V. Wade. Planned Parenthood survived a congressional attack this year and is thriving because women across party lines support it. Republicans this election year have made countless blunders on a woman’s right to abortion and contraceptives – and Obama was unable to deliver a good blow with that one?

Romney did very well on the question of what’s the biggest difference between Romney and Bush, which was tailor-made for him. He said he agrees with Obama on the failure of the Bush administration on deficits, and said Obama is making them worse. It was almost fun to watch Romney hit that one skillfully.

Obama attacked Romney, saying his policies promote the same tax cuts that brought us from surpluses to deficits under Bush. He attacked Romney on his outsourcing to China and on investing in companies that sell surveillance equipment to China. And he said Romney is worse than Bush on social issues, because Bush wasn’t against Planned Parenthood.

Really? This is when you finally turn on the Planned Parenthood attack? Phrase “too little too late” mean anything to you?

There’s no doubt about the difference between the two candidates tonight: Romney was smoother, more fluent. Obama was choppy. It’s a matter of personal style. Obama’s attempts to interrupt Romney were halfhearted. Romney didn’t do it as many times—or so it appeared—but when he did, he was robust, his heart was definitely in it.

A Black gentleman said he voted for Obama in 2008, and asked what the president has done since to earn his vote in 2012.

Obama reviewed the highlights of his record, and it was becoming more and more obvious that he was off his mark tonight. His speech just didn’t flow, he didn’t seem confident. He came up with the facts and figures, but he continued to sound hollow, continued to fail to be excited about his own record.

Romney delivered a simple attack on Obama’s record, and it worked. He listed Obama’s failures with conviction. I didn’t think he was a lot better than his opponent, but enough to sound like the more energetic of the two.

On immigration policy, Romney said that he’s for immigration, but will not grant amnesty to illegal aliens. He attacked Obama on not enacting the laws he promised four years ago, to reform immigration policy.

Obama was hesitating on what should have been his softball to hit into the parking lot. He was good on the facts but, again, not exciting. He was good on the Romney record supporting “self immigration” and the Arizona “papers please” law, but failed to make even the most elementary Democratic plea about compassion and the lives of countless individuals who are already contributing to American society.

In this clash between two styles of speech, Romney’s continued to work better tonight.

Romney hits Obama on immigration policy. It was amazing to see him hitting the president hard on not living up to his promises on an issue that Obama should own.

Obama’s counter attack was reluctant.

Then Romney hijacked the discussion to discuss his investments—an Obama charge from half an hour earlier—saying Obama’s pension fund also invests in China. He tried to engage Obama in revealing, basically, how much money he had, to which the president answered what we all know: a lot less than Romney. Score half a point to Obama.

Obama started sounding better when he noted that Romney’s adviser on immigration is the guy who designed the “papers please” law in Arizona. But he didn’t do much more than that with this gold nugget of a talking point. It was hard to watch – like sitting in the stands watching your kid’s team losing because he or she missed a free throw…

The question “Who denied enhanced security for the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya and why?” had only one great Democratic answer, which Joe Biden delivered last week: Paul Ryan did, when he slashed $200 million for embassy security from the budget.

Obama was really bad on the Benghazi question. He tried to sound commander-in-chief like but came across underpresent. He accused Romney of being irresponsible, sending out a press release while the action was still going on. Good point, but he couldn’t in his wildest dreams connect Romney to the abysmal intelligence failure that led to the consulate quadruple murders. Hillary said earlier that half the buck stopped with her – she accepted responsibility for Benghazi but it was someone else’s fault. Obama should have said: It was Congressman Ryan’s fault. End of discussion. Because otherwise that whole affair made the Administration look awful.

Romney sympathized with the losses, ignored the press release thing altogether, and accused Obama of going to fund raisers while the action on the ground was still going on and an ambassador had just been killed. He was strong and forceful – but still no knockout.

Obama defended his record on Benghazi, and sounded injured, telling Romney it’s offensive to say he doesn’t care. These people work for him, of course he cares.

The CNN experts later said this was among those big all-time presidential debates moments. I didn’t fall off my seat. But what do I know, they could be right.

Then Obama scored a point on fact checking, when Romney challenged his statement that he called the Benghazi attack an act of terror on the first day. Candy Crowley confirms. That was a win for the president.

But when Obama told Crowley to repeat out loud that, in fact, he called it an act of terror on day one, he sounded actually angry. He suddenly appeared very much aware of the tough night he was having, and that things were not going his way.

I believe Obama only had about four really good minutes, near the end. It started with a softball question to both candidates: What do you believe is the biggest misperception that Americans have about you as a man and a candidate.

Romney lapped it up and came across great, talking about how he’s really embracing 100% (not 47%) of Americans. And added some stuff about believing in God.

Obama said he does not believe in government-created jobs, as his opponents claim he does. But he believes everybody should have a shot, and everybody should have a fare share. He then delivered the first good attack of the night, saying Romney’s behind-closed-doors 47% comment betrayed his real scorn for the elderly, the veterans, the unemploed etc.Alas, too ,little too Late. Match goes to Romney, but I don’t expect this debate to have a dramatic influence on the polls. According to a CNN/ORC International nationwide poll conducted right after Tuesday night’s debate, 46% of voters who watched said the president won, 39% said Republican nominee Mitt Romney did.

Nobody calls me from these polls…

 

What is More Virtuous: Paying Taxes or Giving Charity?

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

David Axelrod was manhandled across cyberspace for tweeting an attack against Republican donors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson on the morning of September 11th. Let’s be charitable here and forgive Axelrod his breech of etiquette given that campaigns become so intense you can easily get carried away without meaning to. Whatever the case, Axelrod was reacting to a report in the Huffington Post that if Mitt Romney won the election people like the Adelsons could save billions in taxes. The report also said that a repeal of the estate tax could save billions more.

As the Adelsons are arguably the world’s foremost supporters of Jewish causes and charities, this raises for a Rabbi who is also a congressional candidate the question of what is a bigger mitzvah: paying taxes or giving charity. Surely even Axelrod, or other critics of the Adelsons, are not suggesting the couple have a problem parting with their money, as they regularly contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to charity. Rather, the argument is that they should be paying higher taxes, and the payment of higher taxes on the part of the super-rich has been a constant campaign theme.

Mind you, even Obama and Axelrod have their limits. They are not advocating confiscatory taxation as is, say, France’s new President Francois Hollande, whose plans to tax those making more than a million euros per annum at a rate of 75% is already leading to an exodus of the rich. No, President Obama wants the Bush tax cuts to expire at the end of the year leading to a federal tax rate of 39% for those in the highest bracket.

But since America came into being as a protest against unfair taxation, what rate is fair, even for the super-rich? For example, in my home state of New Jersey a millionaire will pay, at present, 35% of his income to the Federal government and then nearly 10% percent to the state, and New Jersey was changed by Democrat Jon Corzine to a net income state, meaning you cannot deduct what you pay in Federal Taxes from your state tax bill. That means about half your income goes to taxation, and that’s before real estate tax (in New Jersey it’s arguably the highest in the nation), sales tax, and the myriad other taxes we each pay on a daily basis (take a look at your monthly cell phone bill to see if you can even count how many taxes there are).

Still we are told that America’s taxes ought to be higher. In New Jersey it hasn’t worked. People are leaving the state because they’re tired of being ripped off. So while we lost a Congressional seat, leading to a terribly bitter Democratic primary here in the 9th district, Florida and Texas, which have no state income tax, added a bunch. When I meet people campaigning, they tell me that taxes are the number one issue for them.

Are American citizens really expected to feel guilty about not paying enough tax? When we see such incredible government waste, should we be eager to fork over more money to see it so much of it squandered?

Take President Obama’s trillion dollar stimulus that seemed to have stimulated only greater American resentment at paying taxes. Nearly a trillion dollars was poured down a sinkhole but produced no jobs or greater economic performance. I even remember reading a story after the package passed in February 2008 of a public school that was sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend. The school responded they didn’t need the money. They had good facilities and new equipment. No matter. They were told they had to spend the stimulus funds.

I remember being deeply upset. I’m an orthodox Jew. I have a right to educate my children in the Jewish tradition, just as Catholic, Islamic, and Christian parents. I send my kids to a Jewish day school. But not a dollar of my hard-earned tax dollars is allowed to pay a single expense at my children’s Yeshivas and Jewish day schools, even for completely secular subjects. Religious parents throughout the country are having fewer children as they struggle to keep up with insanely high taxes and insanely high tuition. Yet here was a school having our tax dollars being shoved down its throat when it didn’t want or need the money.

Flying Back to the US? Better Ask your Accountant First, You Could Get Arrested

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Hey American Olim — Remember the phrase, “No one expects the Spanish Inquisition”?

Well, no one expects to be questioned at the US border when flying to the US for a simcha or visit…by the IRS, about back taxes.

This month’s, “Journal of Accountancy” has a rather scary article about this very issue. First and last paragraphs are the key:

Taxpayers traveling to the United States with unpaid U.S. tax assessments can be detained at the border, questioned, and flagged for follow-up enforcement. If a taxpayer has an unpaid tax liability and is subject to a resulting Notice of Federal Tax Lien, the IRS may submit identifying taxpayer information to the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS), a database maintained by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The database allows the DHS to identify taxpayers with unpaid tax assessments who are traveling to the United States (Internal Revenue Manual (IRM), §5.1.12.26).

A taxpayer who resides outside the United States may not be aware of outstanding federal tax liabilities if the address on record for the taxpayer is outdated or otherwise incorrect. Consequently, tax advisers with clients who reside outside the United States should ensure that the correct address for the taxpayer is used on the client’s returns and, if the client no longer is required to file U.S. returns, that the IRS still is able to contact the taxpayer about previously filed returns. Taxpayers should be advised that a failure to keep the IRS apprised of a change in mailing address may result in an unwelcome—and potentially embarrassing—surprise when the taxpayer seeks to enter the United States.

This could apply even if you DON’T owe money, but the IRS thinks you owe money, audited you (without your knowledge if they couldn’t contact you), and then…while trying to visit…

So, make sure you file regularly, and make sure they have an address listed for you, which will actually reach you.

Remember the IRS motto: “We’re not happy, till you’re not happy…”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/us-news/flying-to-the-u-s-better-ask-your-accountant-first/2012/08/31/

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