Don’t discourage telework by double-taxing workers

Re: “Telecommute to the future” (March 1), Rep. Rob WittmanRob WittmanVirginia governor contenders ready for battle House GOP defense policy bill conferees named GOP questions Obama's Afghanistan troop withdrawal MORE (R-Va.) rightly emphasizes the need to eliminate barriers to telework and provide incentives. Chief among the regulatory barriers that must be dismantled is the harsh tax penalty currently facing interstate telecommuters: the risk that they will be taxed twice on the wages they earn while teleworking.

Under a state rule known as the “convenience of the employer” rule, states can tax nonresidents choosing to telecommute part-time to their in-state employers on the wages they earn at home, even though the telecommuters’ home states can tax that income, too. The double-tax threat is a powerful deterrent to telecommuting. But given the severe economic, transportation and energy challenges facing the nation, we can no longer afford to discourage telework. It is an essential tool for American families, businesses and governments focused on reducing the rate of unemployment, decreasing costs and conserving oil.

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Telecommuting helps workers who cannot find jobs locally broaden where they can look for work. It expands employment opportunities for disabled workers and military spouses. It helps people who do have jobs save on commute-related expenses (like gasoline, parking or transit fare) and trim dependent care costs. It can ease the burden on older Americans nearing retirement who may no longer have the stamina for a daily commute but who must continue working. Telework reduces costs for employers, including real estate, energy and other overhead costs, as well as recruitment and turnover costs. The savings enable employers to avoid cutting jobs and even expand. Further, telework can help rural communities with struggling economies: It can bring new Internet-based jobs to these regions, as well as new home buyers — people who want to keep their big-city jobs but also want to work in a quieter, more scenic, less expensive community.

In the last session of Congress,  Wittman co-sponsored the Telecommuter Tax Fairness Act (H.R. 2600), bipartisan legislation that would prohibit states from taxing nonresidents on the income they earn at home and eliminate the threat of double taxation for telecommuting. To help the nation exploit telework’s capacity to boost employment, strengthen our energy security, limit carbon emissions, reduce infrastructure costs and thin traffic congestion, the Telecommuter Tax Fairness Act must be reintroduced and enacted in the 112th session.
Scarsdale, N.Y.

Clean Air Act saves lives

From Simon Hirsch, Climate and Air Campaign at the Environmental Defense Fund

In response to Andrew Restuccia’s “EPA: Clean Air Act will save 230K lives and add $2 trillion to economy,” March 1: I am pleased to see the Environmental Protection Agency is protecting American lives, both now and in the future, but dismayed that it still remains under attack. In a report, “Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act” (CAA), the EPA concludes that the CAA will prevent 230,000 premature deaths as well as contribute $2 trillion in economic benefits in 2020. The CAA serves as the foundation of our country’s health — last year alone, it saved more than 160,000 lives and prevented more than 100,000 hospitalizations. Conversely, countries like China, which does not regulate its industrial emissions, endure 700,000 deaths and more than 15,000,000 instances of severe bronchitis each year.
For more than four decades the CAA has saved lives and cut pollution even as GDP has risen 207 percent over that time. According to the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, environmental technology exports have grown dramatically, from less than $10 billion in 1990 to about $44 billion today. Moreover, a report released by green investor group Ceres discovered that “investments driven by EPA’s two new air quality rules will create nearly 1.5 million jobs, or nearly 300,000 jobs a year on average over the next five years — and at a critical moment for a struggling economy.”

Ultimately, that the CAA contributes to the health of countless Americans’ lives while also promoting domestic employment is self-evident. This Congress has to make a choice between following the path of environmental deregulation, like the Chinese, or fulfilling a commitment to sustainable development. I can only hope that statistics like the ones found in his report will begin to gain a stronger voice and help sway our representatives to lead our country into a clean and efficient future.
Washington, D.C.

Help the homeless

From Sandra Miller

All I have to do is walk less than 30 feet from my office to come into contact with some of the most vulnerable people in the United States — homeless people. Funding for mental health, substance abuse treatment, and housing has been cut in one way or another for so many decades now that the thought of more cuts is enough to send those of us working to help these people change their life circumstances into apoplexy. And this is one small segment of the population that will suffer unduly because of proposed budget cuts made necessary in no small part because corporations and the wealthiest segment of our populations don’t want to pay taxes.
What happened to representation by the people and for the people — all people, most of whom are far from wealthy. We are willing to spend money on the business of prisons, made necessary by the unjust criminalization of people of color, rather than re-envisioning our education system and engaging in urban renewal. We are willing to wage costly wars and make enemies rather than waging peace on the same scale and making friends at a much lower cost. What has happened to the heart for justice in this country, whose old image continues to inspire the populations of other countries to rise up for freedom?
Washington, D.C.