A First At Treasury

Senate confirms Janet Yellen, first female Treasury Secretary. Yellen was confirmed by a vote of 84-15 yesterday evening. The former Federal Reserve chair replaces Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a Wall Street financier and movie producer. 

Speaking of replacements… The Biden administration may expedite the process of replacing President Andrew Jackson on the US $20 bill with Harriet Tubman. Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act that relocated most members of Southeastern tribes and opposed abolition of slavery. Tubman was an American abolitionist and political activist who rescued an estimated 70 enslaved people through the Underground Railroad, a network of antislavery activists and safe houses. 

OMB staffs up. Biden is filling the Office of Management & Budget with long-time Washington hands. They include executive associate director Aviva-Aron-Dine, associate director for health Topher Spiro, associate director for economic policy Danny Yagan, and senior advisor Michael Linden. 

France is happy to see the US warm to taxes on big tech. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen  supported calls for tech companies to pay higher taxes in the countries where they operate. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire welcomed it, saying “I think we are on the right track. There is a possibility of finding an agreement on this new international taxation system by the end of this spring 2021.”

US Supreme Court asks the Solicitor General to weigh in on a dispute over Massachusetts effort to tax nonresident remote workers. New Hampshire is challenging Massachusetts, arguing that the Bay State’s temporary tax regulation enacted during the pandemic violates New Hampshire’s sovereignty. It asks the high court to block the tax and require Massachusetts to repay, with interest, tax collected from nonresidents. The Supreme Court has invited the Acting Solicitor General to describe the views of the Biden Administration.

The High Court also threw out lawsuits against President Trump’s alleged violations of the “emoluments clause.” Since Trump is no longer in office, the court agreed that two lawsuits were moot. But that means  there is no definitive answer on whether presidents can accept payments from foreign governments without congressional approval. Trump, unlike past presidents, maintained active business interests that benefited from customers trying to win his favor. 

Will Indiana raise its cigarette tax? The American Cancer Society (ACS), other health organizations, and lobbyists want the state to raise its 99-cent-per-pack cigarette tax by $2, to $2.99. That would be in addition to the federal per pack tax of $1.01 and Indiana’s 7 percent sales tax. The tax increase may lower revenues since residents may smoke less but the ACS estimates the tax still could generate $350 million in its first year. 

How about a new capital gains tax in Washington State? The state’s Speaker of the House backs the proposal, first proposed by Governor Jay Inslee. It would apply a 9 percent tax to capital gains earnings above $25,000 for individuals and $50,000 for joint filers, targeting the state’s 42,000 highest investment earners in its first year.

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