Source: U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations
From press release (Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI):
Apple Inc. has used a complex web of offshore entities – including three foreign subsidiaries the company claims are not tax resident in any nation – to avoid paying billions of dollars in U.S. income taxes, a bipartisan investigation by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has found.
The subcommittee will spotlight Apple’s extensive tax-avoidance strategies at a Tuesday hearing. Witnesses will include Apple CEO Tim Cook, other Apple executives, Treasury Department officials and outside experts. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., subcommittee chairman and ranking member, respectively, will also issue a 40-page memorandum with findings and recommendations.
The subcommittee, which previously explored tax avoidance by other multinational corporations using offshore subsidiaries, found similar practices at Apple. In addition, the subcommittee review discovered an unusual tax scheme: Apple’s claim that two key offshore companies are not tax residents of Ireland, where they are incorporated, or of the United States, where Apple executives manage and control the companies. One of those Irish subsidiaries has paid no income taxes to any national tax authority for the past five years.
Source: U.S. Department of State
Fifteen years ago, the U.S. Congress took a momentous step in support of religious freedom when it passed the International Religious Freedom Act, establishing within the Executive Branch the position of Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. With this measure, the U.S. government made a bold statement on behalf of those who were oppressed, those who were persecuted, and those who were unable to live their lives at the most basic level, for the simple exercise of their faith. Whether it be a single deity, or multiple deities, or no deities at all, freedom to believe–including the freedom not to believe–is a universal human right.
Freedom of religion and belief and the right to worship as one chooses fulfill a deep and abiding human need. The search for this freedom led the Pilgrims to flee Europe for America’s shores centuries ago, and is enshrined in our own Constitution. But it is by no means exclusively an American right. All states are committed to freedom of thought, conscience and belief in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has been the touchstone and the global standard for the protection of human rights around the world since 1948.
The right to religious freedom is inherent in every human being. Unfortunately, this right was challenged in myriad ways in 2012. One of the basic elements of the International Religious Freedom Act is the requirement that the Department of State publish an annual report on the status of religious freedom in countries around the world, and the record of governments in protecting–or not protecting–this universal right.
This year’s report tells stories of courage and conviction, but also recounts violence, restriction, and abuse. While many nations uphold, respect, and protect religious freedom, regrettably, in many other nations, governments do not protect this basic right; subject members of religious minorities to violence; actively restrict citizens’ religious freedom through oppressive laws and regulations; stand by while members of societal groups attack their fellow citizens out of religious hatred, and fail to hold those responsible for such violence accountable for their actions. The immediate challenge is to protect members of religious minorities. The ongoing challenge is to address the root causes that lead to limits on religious freedom. These causes include impunity for violations of religious freedom and an absence of the rule of law, or uneven enforcement of existing laws; introduction of laws restricting religious freedom; societal intolerance, including anti-Semitism and lack of respect for religious diversity; and perceptions that national security and stability are best maintained by placing restrictions on and abusing religious freedom.
This comprehensive report comprises almost two hundred individual reports on countries and territories. Each report sets forth the laws, policies, and practices of governments; describes the nature of societal respect for religious freedom; and highlights the specific efforts that the U.S. government made in each country to promote respect for religious freedom. Some reports document religious bigotry, hatred, and oppression. Others describe examples of religious freedom, societal respect, and interfaith dialogue. Whatever the case, the Secretary of State has been clear that these reports should be accurate, objective, detailed, and frank.
For 2012, some common themes regarding the status of religious freedom around the world emerged. In general, these themes reveal negative trends, and often cut across national and regional boundaries. The individual reports provide the details, but these worrying trends–and the authoritarian governments that restrict their citizens’ ability to practice their religion–merit highlighting.
Alleviating Poverty: Mobile Communications, Microfinance and Small Business Development Around the World
Source: Brookings Institution
Poverty is one of the most pressing problems around the world. According to statistics from the World Bank, nearly one-quarter of the global population lives at or below the poverty line of $1.25 per day.[i] With so many people struggling for basic subsistence, it is hard for those affected to get out of poverty, gain access to capital, or develop small firms or businesses that help them build a better life.
Yet with the growth of mobile technology, there are new opportunities for individuals and small businesses to lift themselves up. People can use handheld devices to make monetary transfers, arrange for microfinance loans, establish small enterprises, and improve their economic circumstances. This helps them alleviate poverty and create a better situation for themselves and their families.
Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, said that wireless communication is a breakthrough technology that helps to solve the worst problems associated with health care, poverty, and educational access. "Now in every village where I go, someone’s got a cell phone, somebody can make an emergency call, someone can find out the price on the market, someone can start a business empowered by the fact that they can reach a customer or a supplier, someone can drive a taxi or a truck for that reason as well. Everything is changing," said Sachs.[ii]
In this Mobile Economy Project report, Darrell West looks at the growth of handheld devices and investigates the barriers to doing business in the developing world. In particular, West explores how mobile devices enable individual entrepreneurship and small business development. Despite the presence of barriers such as corruption, lack of transparency and capital, and poor infrastructure in many parts of the developing world, there are successful ventures enabled by mobile technology.
The report details some of the cases which illustrate emerging possibilities for alleviating poverty in different countries including:
- The growth of mobile devices
- Mobile money transfer services
- Mobile tools for small businesses
- Microfinance applications
The Religious Affiliation of U.S. Immigrants: Majority Christian, Rising Share of Other Faiths
Source: Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
Over the past 20 years, the United States has granted permanent residency status to an average of about 1 million immigrants each year. These new “green card” recipients qualify for residency in a wide variety of ways – as family members of current U.S. residents, recipients of employment visas, refugees and asylum seekers, or winners of a visa lottery – and they include people from nearly every country in the world. But their geographic origins gradually have been shifting. U.S. government statistics show that a smaller percentage come from Europe and the Americas than did so 20 years ago, and a growing share now come from Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East-North Africa region.
With this geographic shift, it is likely that the religious makeup of legal immigrants also has been changing. The U.S. government, however, does not keep track of the religion of new permanent residents. As a result, the figures on religious affiliation in this report are estimates produced by combining government statistics on the birthplaces of new green card recipients over the period between 1992 and 2012 with the best available U.S. survey data on the religious self-identification of new immigrants from each major country of origin.
While Christians continue to make up a majority of legal immigrants to the U.S., the estimated share of new legal permanent residents who are Christian declined from 68% in 1992 to 61% in 2012. Over the same period, the estimated share of green card recipients who belong to religious minorities rose from approximately one-in-five (19%) to one-in-four (25%). This includes growing shares of Muslims (5% in 1992, 10% in 2012) and Hindus (3% in 1992, 7% in 2012). The share of Buddhists, however, is slightly smaller (7% in 1992, 6% in 2012), while the portion of legal immigrants who are religiously unaffiliated (atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular) has remained relatively stable, at about 14% per year.
Unauthorized immigrants, by contrast, come primarily from Latin America and the Caribbean, and the overwhelming majority of them – an estimated 83% – are Christian. That share is slightly higher than the percentage of Christians in the U.S. population as a whole (estimated at just under 80% of U.S. residents of all ages, as of 2010).
These are among the key findings of a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life examining recent trends in the geographic origins and religious affiliation of immigrants to the United States.
Sequestering Meals on Wheels Could Cost the Nation $489 Million per Year
Source: Center for Effective Government
Sequestering Meals on Wheels funds could cost taxpayers far more than it saves. While across-the-board spending cuts that began March 1, called sequestration, are expected to reduce spending on Meals on Wheels programs this year by an estimated $10 million, these savings will be dwarfed by at least $489 million per year in increased spending on Medicaid, both this year and in each subsequent year that sequestration remains in place.
Outside of Washington, waiting lists for Meals on Wheels enrollees have received media attention, but the expected savings have remained largely unquestioned. In reality, cutting Meals on Wheels will very likely increase the federal deficit by increasing the overall cost burden and shifting it to Medicaid, local charities, and other programs.
Overall, Meals on Wheels saves the federal taxpayers money by helping participants live at home instead of living in comparatively expensive nursing homes. The average cost to Medicaid of nursing home care per patient is approximately $57,878 annually.
By contrast, the cost to Medicaid of home care is much lower, approximately $15,371 annually, or $42,507 less than nursing home care. Nationally, according to a survey by the Administration on Aging, as many as "92% [of enrollees] say Meals on Wheels means they can continue to live in their own home."
Based on these estimates, our analysis suggests that sequestering Meals on Wheels funds will actually cost the U.S. taxpayer $479 million dollars over the seven months it will be implemented during this federal fiscal year, which ends September 30 (see the appendix for details of this estimate). Moreover, because sequestration-related cuts are expected to increase in FY 2014 and beyond, if sequestration is not reversed, Medicaid-related costs will increase even more in those years.
Ameriprise Survey Shows Retirement Savings Derailed by More Than Just the Recession; Financial Impacts are Measurable
Countless studies have shown that many Baby Boomers don’t believe they have enough savings to live comfortably in retirement, but why are so many financially unprepared? Data from the Retirement DerailersSM survey, released today by Ameriprise Financial (NYSE: AMP), helps answer the questions many have about the retirement crisis in America.
The Retirement DerailersSM survey found that the vast majority (90%) of Americans ages 50-70 with $100,000 or more in investable and retirement assets have experienced at least one “derailer” – an economic or life event that has made an impact on their retirement savings goals. The average respondent experienced four of these events, which range from derailers that are beyond their control such as the effects of the recession, to family and lifestyle choices that have lasting financial consequences. In the end, these events set respondents back $117,000 on average. In fact, nearly two in five of the respondents (37%) experienced five or more unanticipated events costing them approximately $144,000.
Unexpected expenses come in all shapes and sizes both before and during retirement, but there are a few that rose to the top. The top three most cited derailers are, not surprisingly, related to the recession. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents say low interest rates impacted the growth of their investments. More than half (55%) say their savings were significantly lowered due to market declines and one-third (33%) admit their home equity is now not going to help fund retirement as much as they expected.
Still, many respondents experienced life events that derailed their retirement. One in four (23%) are supporting a grown child or grandchild and just as many (23%) say their pension plan is not worth as much as they’d thought or has been discontinued. What’s more, one in five respondents’ retirement goals have been thrown off track due to making bad investments (22%), taking social security before retirement age (19%) and/or experiencing a job loss (18%).
While it appears that Boomers have found a way to “make it work” in the short-term as they weather these unexpected derailers, they may not have the ability to be as resilient after they leave the workforce. Only 33 percent of respondents say they are extremely or very confident they would be able to afford an unexpected expense such as large home repairs in retirement.
GAO — Federal Government Has Taken Some Steps but Could Do More to Combat Elder Financial Exploitation
Source: Government Accountability Office
Older adults are being financially exploited by strangers who inundate them with mail, telephone, or Internet scams; unscrupulous financial services professionals; and untrustworthy in-home caregivers. Local law enforcement authorities in the four states GAO visited indicated that investigating and prosecuting the growing number of cases involving interstate and international mass marketing fraud–such as "grandparent scams," which persuade victims to wire money to bail "grandchildren" out of jail or pay their expenses–is particularly difficult. In addition, older adults, like other consumers, may lack the information needed to make sound decisions when choosing a financial services provider. As a result, they can unknowingly risk financial exploitation by those who use questionable tactics to market unsuitable or illegal financial products. Local officials also noted that it is difficult to prevent exploitation by in-home caregivers, such as home health or personal care aides, individuals older adults must rely on.
GAO identified several ways the federal government is, or could be, supporting state and local efforts to combat elder financial exploitation.
- With regard to mass marketing scams, GAO has recommended that the Department of Justice reach out to law enforcement authorities in states to clarify how they can obtain the federal assistance needed to handle interstate or international mass marketing fraud.
- To help prevent exploitation by financial services professionals, the Securities and Exchange Commission links to a public website where the qualifications of individual financial services providers can be found, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued guidance on how best to convey this information to older adults.
- To prevent exploitation by in-home caregivers, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services provides grants that fund background checks for employees of agencies that provide these services.
Other federal efforts are broader in scope and help combat all types of elder financial exploitation. For example, each of the seven federal agencies GAO reviewed has independently undertaken activities to increase public awareness of this exploitation; however, GAO has recommended that the federal government develop a more strategic approach to these efforts. Further, recognizing the importance of collaboration among those interacting with older adults, GAO has recommended measures to educate bank staff on how to identify potential exploitation and improve collaboration among social service and law enforcement agencies, among others, as they respond to reports of exploitation. GAO has also noted the need for more data on the extent and nature of elder financial exploitation, some of which can be collected from consumer complaints filed with federal agencies. Finally, preventing and responding to elder financial exploitation calls for a more cohesive and deliberate national strategy. To this end, GAO has recommended that the Elder Justice Coordinating Council–a group of federal agency heads charged with setting priorities and coordinating federal efforts to combat elder abuse nationwide–develop a written national strategy for combating elder financial exploitation.
New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Defense Headquarters: DOD Needs to Periodically Review and Improve Visibility Of Combatant Commands’ Resources. GAO-13-293, May 15.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/654639.pdf
2. Strategic Sourcing: Leading Commercial Practices Can Help Federal Agencies Increase Savings When Acquiring Services. GAO-13-417, April 15.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/653771.pdf
3. Temporary Assistance For Needy Families: Potential Options to Improve Performance and Oversight. GAO-13-431, May 15.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/654616.pdf
4. Financial Audit: Congressional Award Foundation’s Fiscal Years 2012 and 2011 Financial Statements. GAO-13-554, May 15.
Genworth 2013 Annual Cost of Care Survey: Nursing Home Costs Up, At Home Care Prices Remain Relatively Flat
In its 10th year, the Genworth 2013 Cost of Care Survey shows a continued upward trajectory when it comes to the cost of obtaining long term care services. The cost of receiving care in a setting such as an assisted living facility or nursing home is dramatically increasing, while the cost to receive care at home through homemaker services or a home health aide is rising at a much more gradual pace.
"There are many factors that go into rising care costs, from the number of available skilled professionals to real estate prices," said Pat Foley, president of distribution and marketing for Genworth. "If you look at national private nursing home costs over the past 10 years that we’ve done this study, the median annual costs have gone up from $65,200 to $83,950, increasing at more than four percent a year. The better news is that costs for homemaker services and home health aides have remained relatively flat. Since 70% of Genworth’s first time long term care claimants choose in-home care, these costs have remained more manageable."
Nationally, the 2013 median hourly cost of homemaker services and home health aide services is $18 and $19 respectively. Homemaker costs have risen just 1.4 percent since 2012 and 0.8 annually over the past five years. Home health aide services have risen 2.3 percent since 2012 and 1.0 percent annually over the past five years.
The costs to receive care in an assisted living facility are rising much faster. The median annual cost for care in an assisted living facility is $41,400. This represents an increase of 4.6 percent since 2012 and a 4.3 percent annual increase over the past five years. The comparable cost for a private nursing home room rose 3.6 percent from 2012 to 2013, to $83,950, or 4.5 percent annualized over the past five years.
Guestworkers in the high-skill U.S. labor market: An analysis of supply, employment, and wage trends
Source: Economic Policy Institute
This paper reviews and analyzes the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) labor market and workforce and the supply of high-skill temporary foreign workers, who serve as “guestworkers.” It addresses three central issues in the ongoing discussion about the need for high-skill guestworkers in the United States:
- Is there a problem producing enough STEM-educated students at sufficient performance levels to supply the labor market?
- How large is the flow of guestworkers into the STEM workforce and into the information technology (IT) workforce in particular? And what are the characteristics of these workers?
- What are the dynamics of the STEM labor market, and what are the employment and wage trends in the IT labor market?
Analysis of these issues provides the basis for assessing the extent of demand for STEM workers and the impact of guestworker flows on the STEM and IT workforces.
In a Divorce or Dissolution Who Gets the Pension Rights: Domestic Relations Law and Retirement Plans
Source: Pepperdine Law Review
When a marriage begins, it is made in heaven and will last "forever." However, when a marriage is legally over there is the rough sundering of dreams and hopes for the future and the need to sort out amongst the former life companions what is legally the property of each. This article will explore the evolving legal process which divides the property rights acquired during marriage in a retirement plan which was, intended to act as a shield against deprivation of the marriage partners in their mutually shared old age.
CREW Releases New Report Examining the Influence of High Frequency Traders in Washington
Source: Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released a new report, Rise of the Machines, detailing the growing political influence of high frequency traders in the nation’s capital. High frequency trading, a complicated and controversial method of securities trading, has begun drawing scrutiny from government regulators, prompting skyrocketing lobbying spending and campaign contributions by the industry.
CREW studied the lobbying and campaign contribution records of 48 companies that specialize in high frequency trading. Between the 2008 and 2012 election cycles, these firms’ campaign contributions soared by a staggering 673 percent, up from $2.1 million during the 2008 election cycle to $16.1 million during the 2012 cycle. Over this time period, these firms contributed more than $21 million to federal candidates, party committees, PACs, and super PACs.
Additionally, since 2008, these firms have spent more than $10 million lobbying Congress, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. These companies’ total lobbying spending jumped 93 percent between 2008 and 2012, from $1.4 million to $2.7 million. The biggest single-year increase came between 2009 and 2010, while Congress debated heavily lobbied provisions of what would eventually become the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
“Swept Away” — Abuses against Sex Workers in China
Source: Human Rights Watch
This 51-page report documents abuses by the police against female sex workers in Beijing, including torture, beatings, physical assaults, arbitrary detentions, and fines, as well as a failure to investigate crimes against sex workers by clients, bosses, and state agents. The report also documents abuses by public health agencies, such as coercive HIV testing, privacy infringements, and mistreatment by health officials.
Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administraion — Inappropriate Criteria Were Used to Identify Tax-Exempt Applications for Review
Inappropriate Criteria Were Used to Identify Tax-Exempt Applications for Review (PDF)
Source: Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration\
IMPACT ON TAXPAYERS
Early in Calendar Year 2010, the IRS began using inappropriate criteria to identify organizations applying for tax-exempt status to review for indications of significant political campaign intervention. Although the IRS has taken some action, it will need to do more so that the public has reasonable assurance that applications are processed without unreasonable delay in a fair and impartial manner in the future.
WHY TIGTA DID THE AUDIT
TIGTA initiated this audit based on concerns expressed by members of Congress. The overall objective of this audit was to determine whether allegations were founded that the IRS: 1) targeted specific groups applying for tax-exempt status, 2) delayed processing of targeted groups’ applications, and 3) requested unnecessary information from targeted groups.
WHAT TIGTA FOUND
The IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention. Ineffective management: 1) allowed inappropriate criteria to be developed and stay in place for more than 18 months, 2) resulted in substantial delays in processing certain applications, and 3) allowed unnecessary information requests to be issued.
Although the processing of some applications with potential significant political campaign intervention was started soon after receipt, no work was completed on the majority of these applications for 13 months. This was due to delays in receiving assistance from the Exempt Organizations function Headquarters office. For the 296 total political campaign intervention applications TIGTA reviewed as of December 17, 2012, 108 had been approved, 28 were withdrawn by the applicant, none had been denied, and 160 were open from 206 to 1,138 calendar days (some for more than three years and crossing two election cycles).
More than 20 months after the initial case was identified, processing the cases began in earnest. Many organizations received requests for additional information from the IRS that included unnecessary, burdensome questions (e.g., lists of past and future donors). The IRS later informed some organizations that they did not need to provide previously requested information. IRS officials stated that any donor information received in response to a request from its Determinations Unit was later destroyed.
WHAT TIGTA RECOMMENDED
TIGTA recommended that the IRS finalize the interim actions taken, better document the reasons why applications potentially involving political campaign intervention are chosen for review, develop a process to track requests for assistance, finalize and publish guidance, develop and provide training to employees before each election cycle, expeditiously resolve remaining political campaign intervention cases (some of which have been in process for three years), and request that social welfare activity guidance be developed by the Department of the Treasury.
In their response to the report, IRS officials agreed with seven of our nine recommendations and proposed alternative corrective actions for two of our recommendations. TIGTA does not agree that the alternative corrective actions will accomplish the intent of the recommendations and continues to believe that the IRS should better document the reasons why applications potentially involving political campaign intervention are chosen for review and finalize and publish guidance.