Filing taxes is a pain in the you-know-what

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Each year, taxpayers spend an average of 13 hours preparing their taxes – and an average of $200 on tax preparation services and software. It’s crazy.



Why is it so expensive and complicated to do your taxes? Back in 1998, a Republican Congress passed – and President Clinton signed – a bill requiring the IRS to implement a simple “return-free” filing system by 2008. This system would give taxpayers the option of receiving tax returns already filled out for them with the information the IRS already has on hand. But nearly a decade after that system should have been completed, the Treasury Department still hasn’t fulfilled its legal obligation.



Instead, the IRS surrendered to pressure from the tax preparation industry – giant, powerful companies that make a lot of money off of complicated tax forms. Year after year, the IRS signs contracts with these private companies, agreeing not to create a free, online tax return preparation and filing service – even though it could save taxpayers time and money. And to make sure the IRS keeps tax filing difficult, the tax preparation industry spends millions of dollars lobbying Congress to block return-free filing systems.



The government works for American taxpayers – not for the tax preparation industry. That’s why I’m introducing the Tax Filing Simplification Act to help people file their taxes with less stress & fewer costs.



My new bill – cosponsored by Senators Ed Markey, Patrick Leahy, Bernie Sanders, Sheldon Whitehouse, Tom Udall, Jeanne Shaheen, Al Franken, and Tammy Baldwin – makes commonsense changes to the tax filing process:

  • It prohibits the IRS from making agreements with the tax preparation industry to restricts its ability to provide free, online tax preparation or filing services.  
  • It directs the IRS to develop a free, online tax and filing service directly with the federal government, instead of being forced to share your private information with a third-party.
  • It allows all taxpayers to download third-party-provided tax information that the IRS already has about you (like your W2 and 1099 income information) into a software program of your choice.
  • It creates a return-free option for those with simple tax situations, where the IRS would send qualified people pre-filled tax forms explaining how much you owe or how much you’ll be refunded, which taxpayers could then review, sign and file.  

Dozens of the country’s top law professors and economists have already supported this new bill, calling it “a much-needed improvement to our current system.” Secretary Hillary Clinton also supports it, saying: “This important piece of legislation will help us build a better, fairer tax system.” Will you join them?



Please sign up now to tell Congress: Don’t bow to the interests of the tax preparation industry. Support the Tax Filing Simplification Act to make it easier for Americans to file their taxes.

Here's proof that government works

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Most retirement advisers do what’s in their clients’ best interests – but not all of them.

Believe it or not, loopholes in the law have made it perfectly legal for some retirement advisers to sell lousy products to unsuspecting clients. Last year, my office put out a report showing the fancy vacations, luxury cars, even Super Bowl-style rings that retirement advisers can receive as kickbacks for selling certain retirement products – even if those products are bad options for their customers.

Patty Murray, Cory Booker and I have been fighting for a strong new Conflict of Interest rule that requires retirement advisers to put their customers first – and today, President Obama and Labor Secretary Tom Perez did just that.

The Obama Administration’s new, higher standard for retirement advice is a huge win for working families. Sign up now to join Patty Murray, Cory Booker and me in thanking President Obama and the Department of Labor for making retirement saving easier, fairer, and more secure for all Americans.

Lousy retirement advice is a much bigger problem than just a few bad apples. Americans lose over $17 billion a year from advisers and brokers who give them conflicted advice.

With literally billions of dollars on the line, the financial industry and its armies of highly-paid lawyers and lobbyists have spent years trying to stop this new Conflict of Interest rule.

And even though today’s announcement just means that the good retirement advisers who already put their clients’ interests first no longer have to compete against the ones that don’t, the lobbyists are going to use every trick in the book to weaken and water down this new rule any way they can.   

President Obama and Secretary Perez stood up to the powerful interests to issue this strong new Conflict of Interest rule – and we need to keep standing by their side to protect it and make sure Congress doesn’t overturn the rule. Join Patty Murray, Cory Booker and me in thanking the Obama Administration for leveling the playing field for America’s families and to show our support.

Today’s announcement is the kind of change that people want to see in Washington. Government works when we have people on the frontlines fighting to make it work.

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Stephen Colbert and I talk Trump

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Last night, I went on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to talk about one person: Donald Trump.

Because let’s be clear: Donald Trump doesn’t care about helping America’s working families. Donald Trump is interested in helping exactly one person, and that’s Donald Trump.

Sure, he does lots of name-calling and finger-pointing, but Donald Trump isn’t part of the solution – he’s the problem. He’s a guy who inherited a fortune, then kept it going by cheating people – always looking out for himself and no one else.

In case you missed it, take a look at the video of my talk with Stephen Colbert and share it with your Facebook friends:

 

(Click here to watch it on YouTube.)

Electing Donald Trump would be worse than having a fox guard the henhouse. As I told Stephen, it’s like calling an arsonist when your house is on fire.

No matter who you support in the primary, it’s up to all of us – Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, Vegetarians – to say No to Trump and to win back the Senate. 

I won't be neutered.

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Missouri Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer – a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee – told an American Bankers Association conference yesterday that I’m the “Darth Vader of the financial services world.”

My first thought was: Really? I’ve always seen myself more as a Princess Leia-type (a senator and Resistance general who, unlike the guys, is never even remotely tempted by the dark side). Clearly the Force is not strong with Congressman Luetkemeyer (maybe he’s a Trekkie).  

But just before the whole room broke into applause for calling me a Sith Lord, he told the very same room of bankers:


Why would he go out of his way to say something so sexist and offensive? Is he hostile to all women? Clueless? Afraid? And then I had a second thought: This is all about money.

Congressman Luetkemeyer was on a panel about the “changing political landscape” in a room full of Wall Street bankers – powerful people who have been working for years to roll back financial reform. Trying to land the best zinger with my name is just one more way to earn chits and try to cash in big time with that audience.

Luetkemeyer is a Wall Street yes-man, and the financial industry has rewarded him handsomely for his reliability. Since first running for Congress in 2008, he's received nearly a million dollars from the big banks, hedge funds and credit card companies – and he's taken $50,000 specifically from the American Bankers Association.

Luetkemeyer probably thinks that he’ll make big bucks from his Wall Street friends off of his sexist remarks. So how about if we push back in the way the Congressman and his Wall Street buddies understand: It’s a big goal – but can we match the $50,000 that the American Bankers Association has given Blaine Luetkemeyer? Please chip in whatever you can afford right now.

Let me be clear: No amount of offensive remarks will stop me from standing up to House Republicans who are bought and paid for by the big banks. And no amount of name-calling will keep me from fighting for Wall Street reform, for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and for real accountability when the big banks break the law.

They can call me Darth Vader or Voldemort or the Wicked Witch of Massachusetts for all I care – but I won’t be neutered. I won’t be muzzled. And I won’t stop fighting to level the playing field for working families.   

Let’s send the big banks and their buddies in Congress a message: They can try to roll back financial reform and they can have a few laughs about the woman they want to neuter, but we’re ready to fight back anytime anywhere. Help us match Rep. Luetkemeyer’s big bank contributions right now.

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Chief Judge Merrick Garland

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Chief Judge Merrick Garland has served our country for decades – as a federal prosecutor, a senior official at the Department of Justice, and a judge on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

He’s won praise from Democratic and Republican Senators, liberals and conservatives. Even the Bush-appointed Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts, has said: “Any time Judge Garland disagrees, you know you’re in a difficult area.”

President Obama has done his job – sending a Supreme Court nominee to the United States Senate. Now it’s time for the Senate to do its job.

Sign our petition now to tell the Senate Republicans to give Chief Judge Merrick Garland fair consideration and an up-or-down vote.

I look forward to meeting with Chief Judge Garland, reviewing his record closely, coming to a decision on his nomination, and then voting.

After hearing from people like you all across the country, I hope that all Senators will show that they respect the President, the Constitution, and Chief Judge Garland enough to do the same.

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My message to Mitch McConnell

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Only a few hours after Justice Antonin Scalia suddenly died this past weekend, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared that the vacancy on the Supreme Court shouldn’t be filled until the next President is sworn in next January.  

Senator McConnell said the American people should have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice. He’s right – and, in fact, they did – when President Barack Obama won the 2012 election by five million votes.

Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution says the President of the United States nominates justices to the Supreme Court, with the advice and consent of the Senate. I can't find a clause that says "...except when there's a year left in the term of a Democratic President.”

Join me in telling Mitch McConnell: The Republican Senate must do its job and commit to giving President Obama's Supreme Court nominee timely consideration and an up-or-down vote. Sign the petition right now.

President Obama is still the President of the United States. If some Senators don’t like the person that President Obama nominates, they can make their case to the American people and vote no. But it would be arrogant and irresponsible for Senate Republicans to preemptively paralyze the nomination process laid out by our Constitution – before President Obama even announces a nominee – simply because they don’t like the guy who was elected to do the nominating.   

Senate Republicans took an oath just like Senate Democrats did. Abandoning the duties they swore to uphold would threaten both the Constitution and our democracy itself. It would also prove that all the Republican talk about loving the Constitution is just that – empty talk.

I’m doing everything I can to speak out against the Republicans’ unbelievable scheme – but I can’t do it alone. Join me in telling the Senate Republicans to honor the Constitution they swore to uphold and commit to giving President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee timely consideration and an up-or-down vote.

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You did this

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Last December, Citigroup lobbyists slipped a last-minute provision into the must-pass spending bill to make it easier for the biggest banks to get bailed out by taxpayers.

We did everything we could to stop that lousy provision. I gave speeches, people signed petitions, groups called Congress. But it was too late. Congress couldn’t let the government shut down.

We lost a year ago, but we did not go away quietly. Every time the Republicans have tried to sneak another terrible provision into a bill, you’ve helped us sound the alarm. You’ve signed petitions, made calls, tweeted, and posted on Facebook. When two Wall Street banks threatened to withhold their contributions to Senate Democrats because of our work, you quadruple-matched their money. You’ve made it clear that if they want to rig the system, we’re going to fight back.

With a must-pass spending bill on the table, the Wall Street banks came at us in full force but we fought them back! Yesterday, Congress passed another spending bill without a single provision to materially weaken the rules on Wall Street. No gutting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. No tying the hands of the cops who police the big banks. No delay of a new conflict-of-interest rule for retirement advisers.

And we did it while permanently expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit to keep more than 50 million Americans – including 25 million children – from seeing sharp cuts in their income, and preventing many of them from falling into poverty. That’s an enormous victory for opportunity in America. (And we got an extra $2 billion for NIH – a down payment on a healthier future.)

Don’t get me wrong – this budget deal was a compromise, and it’s got some really nasty stuff in it. I strongly oppose lifting the ban on exporting crude oil. I’m deeply concerned that the cybersecurity language threatens key privacy protections for Americans. And I gag when I think about the billions of dollars in tax breaks going to giant corporations.  

But I’m a realist: With a Republican-controlled Senate, a Republican-controlled House, and an army of Wall Street lobbyists spending zillions of dollars to target Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Agency, stopping these guys from rolling back financial reform is big deal.

A lot of people deserve credit for thisoutcome. For months, Democrats in Congress stood tough against the big banks. The Administration – from the President and the Treasury Secretary right on down the line – refused to bend.

And here’s the most important part: You also made this happen. This team made it happen. One financial reporter wrote yesterday:

“The days of these measures slipping through unnoticed are simply over. One comment from Sen. Elizabeth Warren and it’s off to the races. It’s not so much a failure of the lobbyists (though they still get the incoming fire) as it is a complete shift in both the way the sausage gets made and the politics surrounding the banking industry.”

Sure, this isn’t over. The Wall Street banks will be back, and they will swing a lot of weight. And now we’ve got more work to do on climate change, privacy, and corporate taxes. But when naysayers claim that it’s impossible to change Washington and that we can’t beat powerful lobbyists, remember what you accomplished this week. We’ve proven that when we stand up and fight for America’s values, we can win.

Are you working on Thanksgiving?

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Do you have to work on Thanksgiving?

For some retail, restaurant, and fast food workers, the answer to that question could still be: “I don’t know.”

Half of low-wage workers say they have little or no say over the hours they are scheduled to work. 20-30% are in jobs where they can be called into work at the last minute. Others might think they’ll be working four hours – and getting paid for four hours – then are sent home after one or two because there aren’t enough customers.

Think about how much of a challenge it is to plan for anything – childcare, doctors’ visits, parent-teacher conferences, classes – without knowing when you’ll be working next week.

That’s why I’ve introduced the Schedules That Work Act to cut back some of the most rigid, unstable, and unpredictable scheduling practices. Please join me this Thanksgiving week to tell Congress that America’s workers need Schedules that Work.

Look, I get it. Sometimes employers need flexibility – and the bill allows for that. But routinely placing workers on-call with no guarantee of work, sending workers home early without pay, and punishing workers who request schedule changes all hurt working families.

There’s lots of talk about personal responsibility. But how does someone who depends on every paycheck plan a budget when her work hours can fluctuate 40-70% from week to week? How does a mother arrange for childcare if she doesn’t know if she’s working Thursday or Saturday or Monday? And how does anyone get ahead – going back to school to qualify for a better job or getting a second job to close the gap – if they don’t know when they will be available?

The Schedules that Work Act is about basic fairness:

  • A single mom should know if her hours are being canceled before she arranges for daycare and drives halfway across town to show up to work.
  • Someone who wants to go to school to get an education should be able to ask for a more predictable schedule without getting fired just for asking.
  • A worker who is told to wait around on-call for hours with no guarantee of work hours should get something for his time.

Workers have always had to fight for a level playing field every step of the way. A minimum wage. Basic workplace safety. A 40-hour workweek. Now it’s time to fight again for some basic fairness in scheduling.

I’m ready to fight for America’s workers, but I need you alongside me. Sign up right now to show your support for the Schedules that Work Act.
 

I can't believe what I'm watching right now

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OK, I’ve watched some crazy political stuff – but this one is a stunner.

The American Action Network – a right-wing group that has raised more than $100 million for nasty attack ads since 2011 – has a new commercial airing during tonight’s FOX Republican debate smearing the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau we fought so hard to build.

And I’ve got a lead role in the ad: Playing the part of a Commie dictator (check out the banner).

Our team checked in with the TV network, and the right-wing group is spending $30,000 to run this crazy attack ad during the debate tonight. Please help us raise $30,000 right now to send a message to Wall Street and its Republican friends that we’re ready to fight back.

I’m not surprised that the big banks and Republicans are attacking me or the CFPB. After all, in just four years, the brand-new consumer agency has already forced the biggest financial companies to return more than $11 billion directly to the people they cheated. And even on Wall Street, $11 billion is real money.

But I am surprised by just how bold and shameless these new attacks are.  

Wall Street has a problem: they know that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is working and that it’s incredibly popular with the families it helps. So the big banks are smart: $30,000 for a TV ad is nothing compared to the money they can save if their Republican buddies will go after the agency. And if they can soften up support for the CFPB, the Republicans will feel a little bit safer when they try to undercut the agency and rollback financial oversight during closed-door deals.

I’m a big girl, and I can take the personal attacks. But working families who need the CFPB can’t – not when they’ve been crushed, squeezed and hammered by the big banks and their friends in Washington for years. It’s up to us to fight back.

Help us draw a line in the sand: You’re with the big banks who broke our economy, or you’re with working families. Let’s match the $30,000 that is going into tonight’s ad and send them a message.

The CFPB will keep on doing its job, but we’re here to make sure that it CAN keep doing its job. We fought to build the CFPB because we believe that no one should get cheated on a mortgage, credit card, car loan or any other credit product – and we’re ready to say loud and clear that we will keep on fighting to protect this agency.

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CEOs got a raise. Seniors and veterans deserve one too.

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Three weeks ago, the Social Security Administration made a quiet announcement.

Next year, for just the third time since 1975, seniors who receive Social Security won’t be getting an annual cost of living increase. Neither will millions of other Americans whose veterans’ benefits, disability benefits, and other monthly payments are pegged to Social Security.

Two-thirds of retirees depend on Social Security to pay for the basics, to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads – but seniors who usually get a small boost on January 1st won’t see an extra dime next year. That’s why today, I’m introducing the Seniors and Veterans Emergency (SAVE) Benefits Act – a one-time payment equivalent to a Social Security benefits increase of 3.9%.

Help us show Congress that America’s seniors and veterans need a boost on January 1st. Sign up right now to show your support for the SAVE Benefits Act.

Why give seniors and veterans a 3.9% Social Security boost? Well, times are tough for America’s seniors – but they aren't tough for everyone. According to recent data, CEOs at the top 350 American companies received, on average, a 3.9% pay increase last year.

But here’s the kicker: taxpayers like you subsidize huge pay packages for CEOs through billions of dollars in giveaways, including a crazy loophole that allows corporations to write off obscene executive bonuses as a business expense for “performance pay.”

Our new SAVE Benefits Act would give seniors and veterans a benefits boost without adding a single penny to the deficit simply by closing that performance pay loophole. In fact, closing that tax loophole would create enough revenue to give seniors and vets this 3.9% emergency boost and still have money left over for the Social Security Trust Fund to help extend the life of Social Security.

Think about what this change would mean. A one-time 3.9% Social Security payment is worth about $581 a person next year – a little less than $50 a month. For someone barely scraping by on a $1,250 Social Security check each month, $581 would cover almost three months of groceries, or a year’s worth of out-of-pocket costs for a Medicare beneficiary’s prescription drugs. According to an analysis, that little boost could lift more than 1 million Americans out of poverty. That’s a big deal.

This is about choices. We have the money to do this – only right now that money goes to fund a loophole that benefits corporate CEOs. We could use exactly that same money to help out seniors and vets – and make the Social Security system more stable. For me, it’s pretty straightforward: Our spending should reflect our values.

So let’s just do it. Let’s close the loophole and let’s use the money to give seniors and vets the support they need on January 1st. Sign up now to show Congress that America supports the SAVE Benefits Act.

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