IRS needs more staff to help tax filers

first_img“It cannot answer the phone calls it currently receives, much less the phone calls it can expect to receive in light of tax reform, without adequate funding.”Indeed, the new tax law could prompt a wave of confusion that the IRS is ill-prepared to handle.The agency estimates it needs about $500 million just to change computer programs, update forms, write new regulations and answer questions stemming from the bill.After the 1986 tax reform, agency call volume spiked, and the number of returns that required corrections also ticked up, and it is fair to expect the same now. Though the IRS has tried to improve its phone service recently, even before the tax law passed it anticipated that fewer than half of callers would obtain help from a live person this year.Given the complexity of the new law, many people will have questions that are more than basic.“Taxpayers who want to learn about how the tax law affects them are left searching about 140,000 web pages on IRS.gov or turning to paid professionals,” Olson wrote. Worried that you won’t be able to fill out your returns correctly under the new tax law?Do not take it out on the poor IRS employee who could not answer your tax question, even after you spent a half-hour on hold.Blame the GOP-led Congress, which, in its anti-IRS fervor, has driven the agency into the ground. It has become one of the most reliable traditions in contemporary Washington.Every year, the national taxpayer advocate explains that under-funding the IRS makes the tax filing process unnecessarily miserable for those who follow the law, while rewarding those who flout it.And every year, the Republican-led Congress decides to keep the tax system unnecessarily miserable for the law-abiding and easier on the lawbreakers.“Funding cuts have rendered the IRS unable to provide acceptable levels of taxpayer service, unable to upgrade its technology to improve its efficiency and effectiveness, and unable to maintain compliance programs,” national taxpayer advocate Nina Olson wrote in her annual report to lawmakers. Categories: Editorial, OpinionThe following editorial appeared in The Washington Post.Hate the Internal Revenue Service?center_img While the taxpayer advocate argued that the IRS could do more with less, there is no doubt that underfunding is a key driver of the dysfunction.Congress has cut the agency’s budget by some $300 million since 2009, a bit under 3 percent.During that time, lawmakers have saddled the IRS with responsibility to oversee the phase-in of a new health-care law and, now, a major tax overhaul. Can’t the IRS — and the Americans it is supposed to serve — just cope?“On the surface, it appears ‘customers’ (taxpayers) don’t have a choice about seeking another tax agency to work with — there are no competitors to which they can move their ‘business,’” Olson wrote.“In fact, however, there is a competitor, and it is the lure of noncompliance. If the IRS isn’t going to provide you the assistance you need in the manner you need it, then why bother complying with the tax laws?” More from The Daily Gazette:Foss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?EDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationEDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesEDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censuslast_img read more

Kobe Bryant and ESPN’s rehashed narrative — consider the source or lack thereof

first_imgIf Kobe Bryant’s body clock is correct in calculating how this all works — and based on his lifetime of experiences, why wouldn’t he be the most trusted expert? — the media cycle stuck to the ESPN-generated story that landed Monday morning and attempts to emasculate the Lakers star’s current value to the franchise should hit its expiration date right about …Wait for it … Pfffff.So, where to start with this 4,100-plus-word piece, teetering precariously on unnamed sources and recycled material, that somehow has bestowed a cycle of media notoriety to writer Henry Abbott as he took to as many ESPN platforms as possible to explain how, why and what his line of reasoning might be in the noise he’s created leading up to the NBA regular-season openers.About that ESPN story where Bryant came out ranked only the 40th-best player in the league? That’s so last week. It’s been temporarily supplanted by this one, titled simply “Kobe” and included in the league’s multimedia season preview by ESPN, one of the league’s invested TV stakeholders.And it’s already accomplished several well-calculated things, not the least of which is exhuming a dramatic story arch surrounding a major-market iconic brand that will occasionally make appearances on the same network over the next six months. The goal is maintaining enough national viewer interest despite predictions the team may not be around when the playoffs take place.How the storied franchise got itself in this current predicament has been well chronicled by the local media covering this soap opera on a daily basis. And why not? L.A. media outlets find nearly anything related to the status of Bryant and the Lakers appeals across all measurable Hollywoodland demographics. It’s a cycle that can operate on a minute-to-minute basis at its most fascinating moments.Nationally, when put up there among the other ongoing sagas, the Lakers-Kobe adventure must smell a bit stale. For what it’s worth, the ESPN NBA preview cover of its magazine focuses on the Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose — then there’s the misleading headline tease to the Bryant story inside that says he “won’t leave.”Sports Illustrated, with a preview cover on the new/old Cleveland Cavaliers trio of LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, also has a refer to a story inside about how all 30 teams stack up in an “entertainment value ranking.” For the record, the list puts the Lakers way down at No. 16 and says, “Kobe Bryant remains as watchable as it gets … the same can’t be said for his supporting cast.” At least it didn’t try to create something out of nothing. Or, should we more strongly imply, nothing we hadn’t stomached before.Still, the hits that Abbott may have taken on local L.A. sports-talk shows for his poorly executed thesis (one that SportsGrid.com called in a headline a “Hit Piece On Kobe Bryant”) were more spectacularly superseded by the thousands of Internet hits and comments posted, bolstered by Facebook likes, Twitter alerts and array of talking heads hashing it out among themselves on local and national ESPN radio and TV programs.(We won’t even get into the incendiary comments Skip Bayless made related to how Bryant benefited from his 2003 rape trial, which have many calling for his suspension from the already rotting “First Take” weekday morning program).So to that end, ESPN’s mission was accomplished. Predicting the media cycle needed a boost prior to its NBA launch, this was the time to strap some retro-rockets to a payload satellite that has orbited the L.A. universe for the past two decades and has somehow stayed on the radar.But as a piece of journalism possibly shedding new light on an assumption few would even dispute, this came off like an old piece of chewing gum. Been there, spit it out already.Consider the (lack of) sourceThe bushel of unnamed sources Abbott uses to support this one-note theme that no one wants to play with Bryant is spectacularly vapid – agents, especially, notorious for providing self-serving background about something or someone to justify their clients’ status. Sober up. This is what they’re paid to do.Examples cited in situations that involved former teammates Ramon Sessions or Dwight Howard, or potential Lakers such as Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James, contain notable inaccuracies and draws assumptions based on partial information.Quoting another “front office executive from a rival team who knows everyone involved” is simply unacceptable. There’s something kind of appropriate in that also hearing those talk about the standards upheld during the career of the late, great Washington Post editor and journalistic Rushmore figure Ben Bradlee, we still find stories like these that can be added to the heap of substandard reporting in trying to justify the end to a meanness.That may have sparked Lakers president Jeanie Buss to make the rounds on ESPN programming Thursday morning and insert her own so-called first take: “I read the story, I don’t agree with any of it.”It’s even more curious that, given ESPN started all this and stands to benefit most, the most pointed conversation this week came from ESPN national radio host Colin Cowherd bringing on KSPN-710 host and Lakers radio play-by-play man John Ireland onto Wednesday morning’s show.Ireland, who has interviewed Bryant hundreds of times going back to his KCAL-Channel 9 sideline days, agreed with Cowherd that many people have been calling out Bryant’s self-centered motives for years, at almost every point in his career.“I think what Henry did here is went out and tried to sell a narrative that the reason the Lakers are bad is that nobody wants to play with Kobe, and that’s factually untrue,” Ireland said.“I’m not even disputing the facts in Henry’s piece. What I’m disputing is that he didn’t tell the full story. The piece lacks context. And it lacks thoroughness. … You used the phrase (that the story was) ‘well sourced.’ Couldn’t I argue the opposite, that it’s incredibly unsourced? …“Some may not want to play with Kobe, but that’s not the whole story. It’s a small piece of the pie, and guys like you and Henry are selling it like it’s the whole thing. And you know better.”Abbott has admitted in various ESPN chat shows that the interviews done for this piece were more than a year ago, when the Howard arrival and departure was at the forefront. Abbott said he followed up recently and all the sources stood by their opinions.Except, of course, they continued to not reveal themselves.Bryant weighs inAs Bryant nears the final chapter of his career — he’s been a professional basketball player now exactly half his 36 years on the planet — those who cover the team see him as far more accessible, thoughtful in his assessments and perhaps more aware he can help shape his media-filtered legacy.He may speak his mind about front-office moves, and perhaps those same people cringe at it. But it’s the same front office that gave him the exorbitant contract extension, nothing he extorted from his own agent representation — again, media spin that’s often glossed over in trying to rewrite history. It’s a team that figured out it needs Bryant to help justify its multi-year, multi-billion dollar deal with Time Warner Cable’s SportsNet, as TWC also recently signed on to become a team title advertising sponsor.Bryant certainly seems to understand the process, as by his response to the ESPN story when the local media members, many of whom have issues with facts and references cited in the piece, finally asked Bryant to comment on it (since, as Abbott notes, Bryant declined to participate through a Lakers spokesman).“It’s not the first one and it won’t be the last one,” Bryant said Tuesday. “One thing I’ve come to understand over the years is that you’ll have a bad story that comes out on a Monday and it seems like it’s the end of the world and it seems like everybody’s taking shots at you. But time goes by and then you look back on it and it was just a Monday.“Then you have another great story that comes out maybe a month later, or something like that, and it’s a fantastic story. And then there’s a bad story that comes out one month after that. So you understand that it’s a cycle, and things are never as good or as bad as they seem in the moment in time.”There’s your story, in a media nutshell.If ESPN watchers are now apt to tune in to see if Bryant’s shot selection causes new teammate Jeremy Lin to sneer at him, or Steve Nash to move one chair away from him on the bench during a timeout, then perhaps the Abbott narrative may resurface.Until the rinse-and-repeat cycle happens. It’s just the nature of the fleeced.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more

Why Clemson-Notre Dame should be the biggest game of college football season

first_imgFULL LIST: The best college football games in 2020Given Notre Dame’s history when the No. 1 team comes to South Bend, chances are it will at least be one of the more memorable games of the season. Here are a few reasons why:  Matchup of unbeatens? Look at the schedules. Clemson hasn’t lost a regular season game since Oct. 13, 2017 — a streak of 29 games that should extend well into the 2020 season.  Five of the Tigers’ first eight games are at home, and they have a bye week before the Nov. 7 trip to South Bend.  Notre Dame, meanwhile, does have a marquee game on Nov. 3 at Lambeau Field against Wisconsin. The only true road games before the Clemson showdown are at Navy and Pitt. If the Irish can beat the Badgers and rival Stanford, then they should be 8-0 when the Tigers visit.  Huge playoff piece Clemson’s strength of schedule has been a topic of debate the past few seasons. The Tigers are 38-2 in ACC through their past five playoff runs, and that dominance has almost worked against them in some ways.  Clemson plays Notre Dame four days after the first set of Playoff rankings is released on Nov. 3.  The Irish, meanwhile, made the Playoff in 2017 after an undefeated regular season. Notre Dame is typically docked for not having a conference championship game, but the five-game agreement with the ACC works out this season with the Clemson matchup and road games at Wake Forest and Georgia Tech.  Notre Dame can score a huge Playoff piece if it can knock off the Tigers.  Irish have more at stake  Notre Dame and Clemson met twice in the past decade, and those games produced different results.  On Oct. 3, 2015, No. 12 Clemson beat No. 6 Notre Dame 24-22 in a driving rainstorm where the Irish missed the potential game-tying two-point conversion. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney launched into the now-famous “BYOG” speech afterward.  On Dec. 29, 2018, Clemson and Notre Dame met at the Cotton Bowl Classic in the College Football Playoff, and the Tigers routed the Irish 30-3.  Notre Dame is 23-3 since. This is a chance for the Irish to show that they are a national championship contender.  Instant classic is inevitableIf the Tigers remain No. 1 in the polls, it creates a rare opportunity for No. 1 to visit South Bend. Notre Dame is 2-5 in that situation, but the past four games have been instant classics.  YEARWINNERSCORELOSERSCORE1965No. 1 Michigan State12No. 4 Notre Dame31967No. 1 USC24No. 5 Notre Dame71969No. 1 Purdue37No. 2 Notre Dame221988No. 4 Notre Dame31No. 1 Miami301993No. 2 Notre Dame31No. 1 Florida State242000No. 1 Nebraska27No. 23 Notre Dame242005No. 1 USC34No. 9 Notre Dame31Notre Dame beat Miami 31-30 in 1988 in the “Catholics vs. Convicts” game and upset Florida State 31-24 in the “Game of the Century” in 1993. Notre Dame lost a 27-24 thriller to Nebraska in 2000, and USC beat Notre Dame 34-31 in the “Bush Push” game in 2005.   Notre Dame has not won a national championship since 1988 — a drought that has hung over one of college football’s most prestigious programs through the Bowl Championship Series and College Football Playoff eras.  The Irish have a chance to make a statement in 2020 to prove that they are ready to end the drought. Sporting News selected the Nov. 7 matchup with Clemson as the best game of the 2020 season. The Tigers are Sporting News’ preseason No. 1 and likely could stay that way with a team led by Trevor Lawrence.   Those four games were decided by a combined 10 points.  That is the stage that could unfold in November in South Bend when Clemson comes to town.  We’re counting on it to live up to the hype.last_img read more

New Iowa caucus rules could spark clashing claims of victory

first_imgAP Explains: New rules could muddle results of Iowa caucuses WASHINGTON (AP) – For the first time, the Iowa Democratic Party will report three sets of results from the party’s presidential caucuses. And there is no guarantee that all three will show the same winner.Each set of results represents a different stage of the caucus. The new rules were mandated by the Democratic National Committee in a bid to make the process more transparent.In the past, Iowa Democrats reported only one set of results: the number of state convention delegates won by each candidate through the caucus process. Democrats choose their party’s eventual White House nominee based on national convention delegates, and the state delegates are used to determine those totals in Iowa.The Associated Press will declare a winner in Iowa based on the number of state delegates each candidate wins. The AP will also report all three results.Q: What results will Iowa Democrats release out of the caucus?A: There will be three sets of results: tallies of the “first alignment” of caucus-goers, their “final alignment” and the total number of State Delegate Equivalents each candidate receives.This is the first time the party has made public the first and final alignment results.Q: What do those categories mean, and how will the results be determined?A: Caucuses are different from primaries. In a primary, voters go to the polls, cast their ballots and leave. At a caucus, voters gather at local precincts and declare support for their chosen candidate – then some have an opportunity to switch sides.In Iowa, voters arriving at their caucus site will fill out a card that lists their first choice. Those results will be tabulated and will determine the results of the “first alignment.”But that’s not the end of the night.Caucus-goers whose first-choice candidate fails to get at least 15% of the vote can switch their support to a different candidate. The threshold can be higher at some precincts. If voters don’t choose another candidate, their vote won’t count in the final alignment. They can choose “uncommitted” – but that choice only gets reported if it, too, gets at least 15% of the vote.The results of this stage will be tabulated to determine the caucuses’ “final alignment.” Only candidates who receive at least 15% of the vote at that precinct – the so-called viable candidates – will be counted in the final alignment. Non-viable candidates get zero votes in the final alignment.There’s one more step.The final alignment votes are then used to calculate the number of state convention delegates awarded to each candidate. The party calls these state delegate equivalents, because they represent the number of delegates each candidate will have at the party’s state convention in June. That, in turn, determines how many national convention delegates each candidate receives.Iowa will award 41 pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention, based on the results of the party caucuses.Q: Who will the AP declare the winner of the Iowa caucuses?A: The AP will declare the winner of the Iowa caucuses based on the number of state delegate equivalents each candidate receives.That’s because Democrats choose their overall nominee based on delegates. The other results will provide valuable insights into the process and the strength of the various candidates, but the state delegate equivalents have the most direct bearing on the metric Democrats use to pick their nominee.Iowa and national Democratic Party figures also emphasize this is the number to watch.Q: Could different candidates top each of the three categories of results?A: Yes.For example, Candidate A could beat Candidate B in the first alignment voting. But Candidate B could get more support from voters who initially voted for non-viable candidates. After those voters switch to a different candidate, Candidate B could end up with the most votes in the final alignment.The final alignment votes are used to calculate the state delegate equivalents, so the results should be similar. However, in a very close race, it is mathematically possible to have different winners there, too.Q: Why are Democrats making this change?A: The new rules were mandated by the DNC as part of a package of changes sought by Bernie Sanders following his loss to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential primaries. The changes were designed to make the caucus system more transparent and to make sure that even the lowest-performing candidates get credit for all the votes they receive.And it’s not just Iowa that is affected by the changes. The Nevada Democratic caucuses on Feb. 22 will also report three sets of results. DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — New rules in this year’s Iowa caucuses could give presidential candidates an unprecedented opportunity to spin the results.In previous years, the Iowa Democratic Party reported just one number: the number of state delegates won by each candidate. For the first time, the party will this year report two other numbers — who had the most votes at the beginning and at the end of the night. Party officials say the new process will enhance transparency. But there is a growing sense it could also breed confusion by giving several candidates the chance to say they won the caucuses.last_img read more

Days of Conflict Over

first_imgThe days of conflict and confrontation between the National Staff Association (NASA) of the UN Mission in Liberia and UNMIL administration are now over, that’s according to the newly inducted president of NASA.NASA is the association of UNMIL workers in Liberia.During the induction ceremony over the weekend, the newly elected president of the association Momolu Johnson noted that the ceremony marked a new era in which collaboration, not conflict or confrontation will be the hallmark of the leadership’s policies.According to Johnson, the new NASA leadership intends to work with and not against UNMIL administration to ensure that national staff get the recognition and legitimate rewards they deserve for their immense sacrifices made in order to “turn UNMIL into one of the most successful peace keeping missions around the world.”He said the long awaited change that was desired by the membership of NASA since its formation will now be experienced under his leadership. “To achieve the change that we desperately need is going to require a new direction and new ways of doing things; that is to put in place a new system that will address the most crucial needs of UNMIL National Staff.“The change that I am talking about will be characterized by honesty, hard-work and dedicated staff with the zest to make a change. People who will lead and not rule, to influence members and not to manipulate them, are what NASA needs at the moment.”“This new system,” the NASA president pointed out, “will remain in place so that even when we are gone, incoming NASA administrations will have no choice but to adapt to the structure and continue with the policies that we are going to create”.He disclosed that an Ad Hoc Committee of Professionals will be established to look at possibility options for the most efficient way of using NASA’s funds as a way of exhibiting transparency and accountability.  Mr. Johnson described as a disservice to members of the national staff that their meager funds deducted from their hard – earned salaries cannot be used to benefit them but are rather used to sponsor lavish parties that benefit only a few while a most of them are left to swallow their spite, envy and  frustration. He vowed that such actions will not happen under his administration. The vision of NASA will be firstly to see all eligible national staff assuming managerial roles in UNMIL. He warned that the draw down and hand over of mission can only be achieved once the national staffs of all sections exhibit the high level of commitment and professionalism in the discharge of their respective duties.For her part, the key note speaker at induction in Congo Town, Commissioner Davidetta Browne-Lansanah called on the new leadership to use communication as their administrative hallmark.Madam Browne-Lansanah, a Commissioner at the National Elections Commission, noted that an effective use of communication will enhance the understanding of NASA leadership in working with members of the association as well as to engage UNMIL administration on issues that would improve the overall wellbeing of NASA members without confrontation.She urged NASA officials to make their administration participatory by involving the members in decision making because if the membership are supportive of plans and actions, then their leadership will become stronger. The former officer – in – charge of NASA, Agatha Kollie, spoke of the immense contributions made by her leadership. She disclosed that for the first time in the Association’s history, a past leader is leaving in NASA’s coffers more than US$11K (eleven thousand United States Dollars) for the new leadership to begin working with.Those inducted in Friday’s ceremony held at the German Embassy also included: Joseph B. K. Camara, Vice President for Administration, Margaret Taylor, Vice President for Operations, Andrew Kendema, Secretary General, David J. K. Starks, Sr., Assistant Secretary General, Albert Quenah, Treasurer and Geraldine Donald, Financial Secretary.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more