Tools

The Truth Test: Arcuri commercial talks about "tax cuts"

By DAVID DELLECESE

(WKTV) - On Thursday, September 12, Congressman Michael Arcuri aired his first campaign commercial for the 24th Congressional District seat. Throughout the campaign, as more ads take to the airwaves, on both sides, we'll continue to check the facts, for the truth.

The commercial runs like this:

"This is Mike Arcuri. This is Mike Arcuri cutting his lawn. This is Mike Arcuri cutting his son's hair. And this is Mike Arcuri cutting taxes for all across upstate New York. In Congress, Mike Arcuri cut taxes for returning veterans. He cut taxes for first time home buyers....middle class families...small business owners...and family farms. Mike Arcuri..he never met a tax he didn't want to cut. I'm Mike Arcuri and I approve this message because I love cutting taxes."

Arcuri's theme here is cutting taxes, specifically for five distinct groups:

  • Returning veterans
  • First time home buyers
  • Middle class families
  • Small business owners
  • Farm families.

Before we begin looking at each issue, it’s important to understand the following tax terms. In this case, the terms are defined by the San Francisco Bay Area accounting firm Greenstein, Rogoff, Olsen, and Co., LLP, far removed from the 24th Congressional District.

Those terms are the following:

  • Tax credit: A dollar-for-dollar reduction in the tax. Can be deducted directly from taxes owed.
  • Tax exemption: A part of a person's income on which no tax is imposed.
  • Tax cut: A reduction in the amount of taxes taken by the government.

Breaking down the commercial into the five main areas where it claims to be making tax cuts, we will take a look at the group mentioned, and legislation that Congressman Arcuri has, while not authored or sponsored, voted in favor of.

1) Returning Veterans

HR6081 (Heroes Earning Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008) - Sponsored by Rep. Charles Rangel [D-NY]

  • Arcuri voted for legislation that would provide several new and extended tax benefits for military personnel, veterans and emergency services.”
  • While the bill offers various tax credits, exclusions, and exemptions to those serving in the military, along with military families and veterans, there are no directs cuts in taxes here. However, the numerous benefits, credits, and exemptions result in less taxes owed to the government, which is, by the definitions stated, a cut.
  • Introduced in May of 2008, passing both the House and the Senate that same month, and signed into law by the President on June 17, 2008.

HR3997 (Defenders of Freedom Tax Relief Act of 2007) - Sponsored by Rep. Charles Rangel [D-NY]

2) First time Home Buyers

HR 3221 (Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008) - Sponsored by Rep. Nancy Pelosi [D-CA]

  • “Arcuri voted to provide a refundable tax credit of up to $7,500 for first-time home buyers, which would serve as an interest-free loan. It would provide a one-time deduction in 2008 of up to $350 for individuals ($700 for married couples) for state and local property taxes. It would also increase temporarily the low-income housing tax credit.”
  • While the bill offers a tax credit and essentially gives the home buyer more money to work with to make loan payments, it is not, technically a direct tax cut, but does result in a reduction in the amount of taxes the government takes from that homeowner...resulting in the definition of cut.
  • It was introduced in July 2007, was debated until amendments were made and agreed upon, passed both the house in April 2007 and the senate in April 2008, and was signed by the president into law in July 2008.

HR 3648 (Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007) - Sponsored by Rep. Charles Rangel [D-NY]

HR 5140 (Economic Stimulus Act of 2008) - Sponsored by Rep. Nancy Pelosi [D-CA]

  • “Arcuri voted for the Economic Stimulus package that provides advance refund of a tax credit for most taxpayers equal to $600 for individuals and $1,200 for couples. Families would receive $300 for each child under 17. It would provide businesses with 50 percent depreciation for certain equipment purchased in 2008 and increase to $250,000 the amount small businesses can expense in the year items are purchased.”
  • This is more widely known as the stimulus refund that many of us got in the mail this past tax season. Now, once again, a benefit to taxpayers, and a credit, for sure. Checking with a certified public accountant, those refund checks are not taxable. So, in this case, it's an exemption, and money that you don't have to pay to the government, again by technical definition, a cut.
  • It was introduced in September of 2007, with debated with some amendments made before passing the House in October 2007 and the Senate in December 2007, and then signed into law by the President in December 2007.

    HR 3996 (Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2007) - Sponsored by Rep. Charles Rangel [D-NY]

  • Arcuri voted for the Alternative Minimum Tax Adjustment that provides a one-year adjustment to exempt an additional 21 million taxpayers from paying the alternative minimum tax on income from 2007.”
  • The bill extends the alternative minimum tax limit for nonrefundable personal credits to 2007 and increases the amounts of exemption from $62,550 to $66,250 for joint tax returns and from $42,500 to $44,350 for individual tax returns. --- In other words, it bumps up the eligibility requirements for certain tax credits, meaning some people who weren’t eligible because perhaps they earned slightly too much the year before, would now be eligible for those credits. Again, we’re still seeing support from Arcuri in his voting for this, but again, not a direct tax cut. But the change in eligibility moves them into other tax brackets, which can reduce how much taxes they pay in comparison to previous years. With less money to pay to the government, it meets the technical definition of a cut.
  • This “tax increase prevention act of 2007” was introduced in October of 2007, debated with some amendments made, passing the House in November 2007 and the Senate in December 2007, and was signed into law by the president the day after Christmas in 2007.”

4) Small business owners

HR 2206 (Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007) - Sponsored by Rep. David Obey [D-WI]

  • Arcuri voted for the Alternative Minimum Tax Adjustment that provides a one-year adjustment to exempt an additional 21 million taxpayers from paying the alternative minimum tax on income from 2007.”
  • The bill extends the alternative minimum tax limit for nonrefundable personal credits to 2007 and increases the amounts of exemption from $62,550 to $66,250 for joint tax returns and from $42,500 to $44,350 for individual tax returns. --- In other words, it bumps up the eligibility requirements for certain tax credits, meaning some people who weren’t eligible because perhaps they earned slightly too much the year before, would now be eligible for those credits. Again, we’re still seeing support from Arcuri in his voting for this, but again, not a direct tax cut. But the change in eligibility moves them into other tax brackets, which can reduce how much taxes they pay in comparison to previous years. With less money to pay to the government, it meets the technical definition of a cut.
  • This “tax increase prevention act of 2007” was introduced in October of 2007, debated with some amendments made, passing the House in November 2007 and the Senate in December 2007, and was signed into law by the president the day after Christmas in 2007.”

5) Family Farms

HR2419 (Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2007)Sponsored by Rep. Collin Peterson [D-MN]

  • “Arcuri voted to instruct the House conferees on the Farm Bill re authorization, to disagree to any provision of the bill that would result in a tax increase.”
  • The bill offers incentives and benefits to farmers, and Arcuri fought to keep various taxes on farmers from increasing. So, once again, while not a direct cut, Arcuri was in favor of keeping the taxes from going up, and the tax benefits to farmers trickles down into what is considered, again, by our definitions laid out, a tax cut.
  • Passed by the House and Senate in 2007, differences in the bill were resolved, but the bill was vetoed by the President in May 2008, but then quickly that veto overridden by the House and Senate and became law in August 2008.

So, looking at the commercial and its claims of tax cuts, it passes the truth test, but it's a well-decorated cake. It's the cake he said he was going to give taxpayers, but it's decorated in a different fashion - It's not an overt cut, but provides the same benefit.

The fact of the matter is that each of those things does achieve what Arcuri said it would achieve, when looking at if it reduces the amount of money the government would receive in taxation, which is the technical definition of a cut.

So, if the government would have received more money had one of these bills not passed, then he did, in essence, vote in favor of actions that resulted, by definition, a cut.

Just a note - late Friday afternoon, the Hanna campaign contacted NEWSChannel 2 sending a list of bills Congressman Arcuri did vote in favor of that they claim resulted in various tax increases.

Without enough time before the broadcasts, we note that the examples given by the Hanna campaign ran the gamut from cigarette and tobacco products (HR 976) to aviation fuel (HR 2881).

Arcuri did vote for HR 976, a bill that is now dead, as the President overrode it and Congress failed to override the veto.

HR 2881 which Section 1002 does state it increases to 24.1 cents per gallon the tax rate for aviation gasoline. Arcuri did vote in favor of HR 2881.

The examples of legislation given are just a handful of examples that, with the limited amount of time allotted for research from the commercial's airtime to news broadcast time, could be used.

  • “Arcuri voted for legislation that would change tax law by excluding up to $2 million in mortgage debts forgiven or canceled by lenders, through renegotiation or foreclosure, from a homeowner's taxable income. It also would extend through 2014 a provision in existing law that allows taxpayers to deduct private mortgage insurance premiums from their taxes.”
  • Excludes the debt forgiven on a qualified principal residence from the definition of gross income subject to income tax. It also reduces the income tax breaks on most gains from the sales of non-primary residences using a formula based on the amount of time that the taxpayer actually lived in the property during the five-year period before the sale.
  • It was introduced in September of 2007, some amendments made, passing the house and senate in late 2007, and then was signed into law by the president in December 2007.

3) Middle Class Families

  • Arcuri voted for legislation to include tax provisions and changes to the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program intended to assist military personnel and their families, veterans, volunteer firefighters and emergency medical services personnel, and volunteers in the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps Program.”
  • While again offering tax credits and exemptions for various military personnel, again offering numerous benefits, it does not technically make any direct cuts, but by way of those credits and exemptions, can result in less money to be paid to the government, which is, by definition, a cut.
  • This bill was introduced in October of 2007, with some debating resulting in three amendments proposed, passing the House in November 2007 and the Senate in December 2007. The bill may now proceed to a conference committee of senators and representatives to work out differences in the versions of the bill each chamber approved. The bill then goes to the President for his approval before becoming law.

Most Popular

Most Popular

What's On