Housing Relief Act Lets IRS See Merchants' Credit, Debit Card Sales AND IT MUST BE REPEALED!
Repeal Housing Relief Act Scam Provision
This bogus provision by all accounts and measures is simply unconstitutional.
Ask Your Congressman or Senator For a Copy of It And Then You Should Read It And Then You Must Publish It Online For Everyone To See!
It Appears The States (See The Marketplace Fairness Act) Including The Federal Government Has Turned Over The Authority To Collect Taxes To Businesses And Credit/Debit Card Processors!
American's Really Need To Wake-up And See What is Going on Here!!!!!
We need to write to every Congressman and Senator (Charlie Rangel (D-NY)) who even remotely had anything thing to do with this scam and tell him or her to remove (repeal) this provision immediately less we fire them asap.
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Business owners, if you have a merchant account that lets you accept credit or debit cards, Uncle Sam just stuck his nose further into your business.
A little-noticed provision (lets IRS see merchants' credit, debit card sales) in the housing relief bill signed into law by President Bush required institutions involved in merchant accounts to file a new form with the IRS, It actually began in 2011. The form reports how much a business got in credit or debit card transactions.
We need to find out who was responsible for this scam tactic.
The increased-reporting requirement has rattled privacy advocates, has credit card payment processors warning of increased costs and has angered at least one former presidential candidate.
The measure was "slipped in" the housing bill, says former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul in a video on his Campaign for Liberty Web site. The result, he says, is "All credit card transactions will be reported to the IRS. And more regulation, more reporting, more surveillance, and they're hoping to collect more money in this effort. They're always coming up short, so this is more surveillance of every single thing you do in life, everything you buy and sell on your credit card, every transaction will be reported to the IRS.
"The trend is not good," he says.
How Merchant Accounts Work
To understand what has the Texas congressman and others riled, you need a little background.
Whenever a consumer buys something using a payment card, several parties are involved behind the scenes. On the consumer's side, there's the bank that issued the card. Then there's the acquiring bank that the merchant signed up with (every merchant that accepts credit cards has to be "sponsored" into the credit card processing system by a bank). The consumer's bank and the merchant's bank pass information about transactions back and forth through a processing system run by Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express. Finally, the consumer's card-issuing bank, or the merchant's acquiring bank, or both, may hire private, third-party companies to perform the chore of processing.
The new law requires the parties involved -- whether banks or third-party processors -- to aggregate and report the total payment card transaction volumes to the IRS.
It's similar to the way that businesses are required to obtain W9 forms from contractors when total payments exceed $600 a year, and then report the total paid to a contractor to the IRS.
Although the language of the bill is convoluted, it appears to exempt the smallest businesses by creating a trigger point: Below $20,000 in annual payment card sales, or 200 payments, no report required. (If anyone has a different reading of the text, please let me know.)
According to the Treasury Department, "Payment cards (both credit cards and debit cards) are an increasingly common form of payment to merchants for property and services rendered. Some merchants fail to report accurately their gross income, including income derived from payment card transactions. Generally, compliance increases significantly for amounts that a third party reports to the IRS."
$10 Billion In New Tax Revenue?
Having that aggregate report will cause more businesses to accurately report their credit card income, the Treasury believes, boosting compliance and tax revenue. It's estimated to raise $9.8 billion over 10 years.
The measure had been part of the president's 2007 budget proposal and, before it was tacked onto the housing bill, was a stand-alone bill. That bill got a hearing in June before the House of Representatives' Committee on Small Business, where it was soundly rejected by small-business advocates, payment processors and privacy advocates.
Fifth Third Processing Solutions' Senior Vice President Donald Boeding said in written testimony the measure would be costly and "could create tensions between acquirers/processors and their merchant customers who don't understand how the information is going to be used and/or disagree with the methodology by which processors have created the reporting. This will result in a tremendous amount of concern and confusion among merchant customers. Additionally, fear of audit could make merchants less likely to accept electronic payments."
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Fifth Third is a large regional bank based in Cincinnati. Boeding added that "(I)t should be expected that the noncompliant taxpayers this proposal targets will ultimately find and develop schemes to avoid recognition through this type of reporting. Some may simply stop accepting cards altogether thereby making it less likely that the IRS will be able to track taxable income, others may simply work to find loopholes in the reporting mechanisms that are ultimately established. The benefits expected to arise from this initiative may ultimately result in increased costs to the compliant payment card participants (consumers, acquirers, processors, issuers, merchants) with no real benefit to those same participants."
IRS Camel's Nose In The Tent
David Sohn, senior policy counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology, a nonprofit group advocating digital privacy, called the measure "highly objectionable" in his written testimony in June, saying it would create new, hackable databases full of business owners' data. Small business owners often use their Social Security numbers as Taxpayer Identification Numbers -- the number that the new law requires merchant processors to track.
I spoke to him late this week, and his objections remain: "Our concerns from a privacy angle were that right now, most banks that issue credit card merchant accounts have adopted what we consider to be a good and recommendable security practice, that is, they don't keep individual numbers around. If there's a lot of data lying around they don't need, it creates a security risk."
He also predicts the measure will suffer from "mission creep" because simple payment aggregation numbers won't be enough. Suppose, he says, that three dentists share an office, and a single credit card merchant account. The card processor won't be able to match the amount processed to any individual -- not without further credit prying into each dentist's information.
"It's a purely governmental function, tax collection is," he says. But now, merchant processing companies are getting into the act. "We think it's tricky, going down that road."
It Seems That Everyone Is Going To Be A Tax Collector For The IRS. See The Marketplace Fairness Act
The Housing Relief bill was originally designed to bail out homeowners affected by the mortgage crisis had strong bipartisan support, despite a White House veto threat. But the free-market advocacy group FreedomWorks wants to draw our attention to a provision that has little to do with housing loans: a measure that requires credit card companies and electronic payment processors, such as PayPal, to file aggregate transaction reports with the IRS.
The reporting provision was introduced without debate as a revenue offset measure, meant to defray the costs of the housing bailout. According to the Senate's summary, the measure is projected to raise some $9.8 billion in revenue over 10 years by increasing tax compliance and encouraging merchants to accurately report their income.
If We (The Public) Had No Right To See or Debate This Provision Then We Must Throw It Out.
During hearings earlier this year before the House Small Business Committee, however, Committee Chair Nydia Velásquez complained that such reporting requirements create "significant technical and financial challenges for banks and entrepreneurs alike." Projections of tax compliance gains, she said, were "built on the incorrect premise that electronic payments foreshadow profits. The reality is quite different for most small businesses: Electronic transactions bear little relationship to actual income, especially when chargebacks, merchant discounts, and other fees are accounted for. The result is that even careful compliance by entrepreneurs could lead to costly IRS audits."
Representatives for small business associations opposed to the requirements observed, for instance, that many businesses took deposits via credit card that did not constitute true income. Some also worried that the IRS would use the data to target and audit businesses that accepted an unusual number of electronic or credit card transfers for their industry.
Privacy groups harbor their own objections. David Sohn of the Center for Democracy and Technology testified that the reporting requirements would force transaction middlemen to retain information like tax ID numbers—which in the case of many small businesses will simply be the owner's Social Security Number—that the firms otherwise would discard. He also warned that an aggregate reporting requirement could easily transform into a demand for more detailed data.
The bill was kicked back to the House for a straight up-or-down vote. That, according to CDT's Ari Schwartz, is "bad process," as it means the reporting measure is unlikely to be subject to much close consideration. The popular housing relief bill eventually passed, despite the president's veto threat. "If you're going to add something like this,
says Schwartz, "at least have some independent discussion on the floor."
According to former U.S. Rep. Dick Armey, FreedomWorks chairman, the provision requiring payment-card reporting to the IRS would have an astonishing reach, and it was slipped into the [Senate Housing] bill week. Not only does it affect nearly every credit card transaction in America, such as Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express, but the bill specifically targets payment systems like eBay’s PayPal, Amazon, and Google Checkout that are used by many small online businesses. The privacy implications for America’s small businesses are breathtaking.
Sometimes called the “e-bay reporting provision,” this legislation has a goal of improving collection of taxes on income underreported by small business, estimated to cost the government as much as $150 billion dollars annually. Apparently it was inserted into pending bills in both branches of Congress last week.
The 630-page bill was drafted by the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, chaired by Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT). According to the FreedomWorks press release, the card-reporting provision was added without debate, and “requires the nation’s payment systems to track, aggregate, and report information on nearly every electronic transaction to the federal government.” Such language is not referenced in the bill’s summary or the Banking Committee’s Statements of Favorable Reaction to the bill.
A piece by Phil Kerpan at National Review Online asserted that payment-card reporting was added to the Alternative Minimum Tax Relief Act of 2008 last week by the House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Charlie Rangel (D-NY).
Yet another committee, the House Small Business Committee, held a hearing on June 12 entitled, Electronic Payments Tax Reporting: Another Tax Burden for Small Businesses. Testimony from the five witnesses: Kim Stubna, Director of Public Policy, First Data Corporation; Donald Boeding, Senior Vice President, Fifth Third Processing Solutions; David Sohn, Senior Policy Counsel, Center for Democracy and Technology; Todd McCracken, President, National Small Business Association; and, Kristie L. Darien, Executive Director, National Association of the Self-Employed (NASE). These witnesses (unsurprisingly) condemned the proposed legislation. Concluding that “[t]his proposal would do far more damage than good,” Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) wrote to Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and recommended further study. Her efforts apparently did not prevent the reporting provision from moving forward.
Most of the criticism I’ve read this morning on this provision has come from conservatives; but as best I can tell, the innovation was first proposed by President Bush in his 1996 budget. That won’t keep it from being defined as a Democratic initiative. Per Phil Kerpen,
Payment-card reporting is another expensive bad idea. American taxpayers must repeal this extortion attempt immediately.
I haven’t had time to think through some of the ramifications; but as it stands, I think its a bad idea due to privacy concerns, data security concerns and a lack of sufficient analysis of costs and benefits. A proposal to send millions of individual transactions daily to a new IRS database is unlikely to be popular in today’s political environment. It’s not a good issue for Dems to run on in the fall, but now they (Dems) own it. So let’s get it publicized and examined now!
Rarely have I agreed with Rep. Armey, and my concerns are focused more on privacy and data security concerns for individuals than his. But my initial reaction is that this has frighteningly large ramifications and we need to get it publicized!
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