Areas of Interest
Since my first days in Congress, I have been fighting to make our tax laws fairer for all Nevadans. I have led the fight to provide tax relief for working families, reinstate the state sales tax deduction, and reform the IRS. In today’s economic climate, I understand how important it is to ensure that tax policies encourage investment and job creation and that tax relief is focused on providing help to hard-working families.
Protecting Nevada’s middle-class families is one of my top priorities, which is why I have long supported broad-based tax cuts that lower the tax burden for working families throughout Nevada, such as the $1,000 per qualifying child tax credit, relief from the marriage penalty, and the 10 percent individual income tax bracket.
In 2010, I led the Senate in passing the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act. This important legislation cut taxes for middle class families and small businesses, extended unemployment benefits, and created jobs. The benefits for working families in this legislation included lower tax rates on the income they earn, an extension of the $1,000 child tax credit, relief from the marriage penalty, and tax credits to help families afford the expense of sending their kids to college. Equally important, the legislation extended unemployment benefits for 13 months and provided a payroll tax cut for individuals and incentives to create clean energy jobs and invest in renewable energy.
In 2011, in an effort to slow down the growth of the national debt, Congress enacted the Budget Control Act, commonly called “sequestration” – substantial, across-the-board cuts to both defense and non-defense spending. Unfortunately, those still suffering from the economic downturn have been hit particularly hard by these cuts. In September of 2013, tens of thousands of Nevadans relying on federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) saw their benefits slashed by almost 60 percent as a result of sequestration. This is precisely the wrong way to fix the economy. Although these cuts will be alleviated to some extent starting in October, funding will remain well below pre-sequestration levels until Congress acts. I will continue urging my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to replace sequestration with fair and balanced cuts to our deficit.
A key component in my efforts to revitalize Nevada’s economy is to help ensure tax relief for middle-class families. I have always supported policies that ease the burden for working families in Nevada. And as our economy continues to recover from the recession, it is imperative that we enact tax relief for hard-working families and to encourage job creation, saving, and investment. In the final weeks of the 112th Congress, I was proud to lead the Senate in passing a plan to continue tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans and ensure that middle-class Nevadans and families across the country did not face an income tax increase in 2013. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA), which President Obama signed into law on January 2, 2013, permanently extended the middle-class tax cuts, and encouraged a fairer tax code by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay slightly more in taxes. The legislation also extended key middle-class tax provisions like deductions for state and local taxes, qualified tuition and related expenses, mortgage insurance premiums as qualified interest, and qualified expenses for teachers. I am pleased this legislation will continue to help grow the economy. We must address these issues again this year, and I will work to do so in a timely manner. American families cannot afford to wait until the last moment to find out what their bottom line will look like next year. They are sitting around the kitchen table today figuring out whether they can afford to buy their first home, send their kids to college, or retire, and Congress must create the certainty necessary for families and businesses.
Throughout my time in Congress, I have advocated for tax relief for small businesses. In 2010, I championed the Small Business Jobs Act, legislation crafted specifically to help small business weather the recession. By providing small businesses nearly $15 billion in immediate tax relief, incentivizing small business lending, and promoting entrepreneurship, the Small Business Jobs Act helped create as hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
In 2009, I insisted that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) contain a number of provisions to ease the tax burden on small businesses, including an expansion of the net operating loss carryback and the elimination of any tax penalty when businesses restructure their debt. And as part of the Affordable Care Act , I made sure that small businesses are eligible for tax credits equal to as much as 50 percent of the cost of the health care they provide to their employees.
In the 112th Congress, I introduced the Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act, which would have put money back in the coffers of true job creators by giving business owners who hire new workers or give raises to current employees a 10 percent tax credit and by cutting taxes for firms that invest in new equipment, allowing more than 2 million businesses to grow faster. These two proposals would have created almost a million new jobs, but unfortunately, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle chose to block this legislation from receiving the up or down vote it deserved. I understand that tax relief for small business is important to their success. And I will continue to fight for policies that help small businesses in Nevada and across the nation grow and put hardworking Americans back to work.
Our country is too dependent on oil and fossil fuels, which pollute our air, place our economy and national security at risk, and contribute to climate change. As the Senate Majority Leader, I am working to build a clean energy economy that will ensure that Americans have reliable access to safe and affordable clean energy. For instance, I was proud to support the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which provides incentives for renewable energy production and encourages energy efficiency while creating jobs and combating climate change.
ATRA helps create a business environment that allows clean renewable energy and efficiency to compete with fossil fuels that have been subsidized by the federal government for generations. Incentives included in ATRA are fueling economic growth, while cleaning up our energy supplies at costs affordable to families and businesses.
You can find more information about energy and other provisions included in ATRA here.
Because Nevadans pay no state income tax, citizens in our state can elect to deduct the sales taxes they pay in computing their federal income tax liabilities. I believe this important tax deduction for Nevadans should be made permanent. While the sales tax deduction expired at the end of 2011, I was pleased the State and Local Sales Tax deduction was extended through 2013 with the passage of the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA). I will continue to do everything I can to make this deduction permanent, so that our tax laws treat Nevada’s families fairly.
Throughout my time in Congress, I have led the effort to ensure that the IRS is more responsive to the needs of Nevada taxpayers. In fact, my first speech in the Senate in 1987 was about the need to provide taxpayers with greater protections.
I was a strong champion of the original Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, a law that guarantees a taxpayer’s right to have an attorney represent his or her before the IRS, prohibits the IRS from using quotas for audits or property seizures, and allows taxpayers to recover financial damages caused by the IRS. Most important, the law requires the IRS to explain to taxpayers, in plain English, these and all the other rights to which they are entitled.
While the original Taxpayers Bill of Rights sent a strong message to many IRS officials, further reform was necessary. As such, I supported the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights II, which created the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate to assist taxpayers in resolving problems with the IRS. Later, I joined Senators Bob Kerrey (D-NE) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) to pass the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act. This comprehensive law revamped the management and oversight of the IRS to improve its operations and make the agency more accountable to American taxpayers.
If you have specific questions about your tax obligations, I would encourage you to reference the IRS website at IRS.gov for publications and other information. If you would like to contact your local IRS office, you may do so at:
Las Vegas Reno
110 City Parkway 200 South Virginia Street
Las Vegas, NV 89106 Reno, NV 89501
(702) 868-5005 (775) 824-2218
Additionally, you may want to consider contacting the Taxpayer Advocate Service. This agency operates independently within the IRS and offers free, independent, and confidential tax assistance to taxpayers unable to resolve their tax problems through normal channels or individuals experiencing a hardship. The service helps individual and business taxpayers resolve problems with the IRS.
Visit their website for more information or call (702) 868-5179.