Michael Choate Associates CPA

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Congress at Work for September 2013

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Government Accountability for Spending, Compensation and Enforcement

Government Spending Accountability Act of 2013

As part of an ongoing trend to rein in spending and provide more fiscal transparency, this Act is designed to limit how much the government spends to host or send employees to conferences – including international conferences. Among its mandates, the Act limits the paid travel expenses to no more than 50 employees per conference, and restricts total travel expenses to 70 percent of the aggregate amount of such expenses for FY2010. The total amount that any agency may spend to support a single conference is $500,000.

The Act also requires government agencies that send employees to conferences to post employee presentations online at their public websites. They must also post quarterly reports on each conference for which the agency paid travel expenses during the preceding three months. The Act concedes that there may be exceptions for the mandates, allowing that agency heads may waive imposed limitations for a specific conference if he or she determines that a higher expenditure is justified as “the most cost-effective option to achieve a compelling purpose.” Military travel expenses are exempt from the spending limitations.

The bill was passed by the House in July but has not been voted on in the Senate.

Common Sense Compensation Act

2013 brought furloughs to thousands of government employees as part of the sequestration mandate. In light of this hardship to so many Americans, Congress is considering common sense to limit the bonuses the government hands out to employees. For example, 75 percent of senior executives received bonuses that averaged more than $13,000 per person in 2010. In 2011, the Federal Aviation Administration distributed bonuses of $40,000 or more to 86 of its employees.

The Common Sense Compensation Act is meant to put the brakes on these types of extravagances. The bill, which has yet to be passed by the House or the Senate, would prohibit any employee of a federal executive agency to receive a bonus that exceeds 5 percent of his or her basic pay. Also, throughout the sequestration period, only 33 percent of each agency’s senior executive service employees may receive a performance-based award (unless the agency is granted a waiver).

Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act of 2013

In response to the recent negative publicity related to the Internal Revenue Service’s administrative procedures, many legislators are adamant that the agency not be in charge of implementing or enforcing provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). This includes collecting and administering compliance for the $29 billion medical device tax and the $101 billion health insurance tax related to the individual insurance mandate and subsidies.

The Health Care law allocated new funding to the IRS to accomplish these duties. As of March of this year, the IRS had approximately 700 full-time staff already working on ACA implementation, and estimated that it would need an additional 2,000 IRS agents – constituting more than 80 percent of the funding provided by the Act.

This bill passed in the House on August 2 and is now in the Senate for consideration.

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