By Sylvan Lane - 01/14/16 06:42 PM EST
IRS SERVICE FALLING APART: The service provided by the IRS to taxpayers has rapidly deteriorated, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said Thursday in a new report.
A GAO investigation found that the number of callers who sought and received live assistance from the IRS fell from 74 percent in fiscal 2010 to 38 percent in fiscal 2015. The decline occurred despite the fact that the number of callers seeking live assistance fell by 6 percent in that time period, the GAO said. The Hill's Naomi Jagoda breaks it down: http://bit.ly/1P3jq3g.
"The average wait time for callers, meanwhile, increased from about 11 minutes in fiscal 2010 to 30 minutes last year, according to the report.
"'Without such a strategy, Treasury and IRS can neither measure nor effectively communicate to Congress the types and levels of customer service taxpayers should expect, and the resources needed to reach those levels,' the GAO said in the report, which was released just days before Tuesday's start of the 2016 individual income tax filing season.
MEANWHILE, IRS PROMISES SAFER, QUICK REFUNDS: The Internal Revenue Service has bolstered identity theft protections for tax refunds, but said the added security won't slow down your tax refund. More from Naomi: http://bit.ly/1UShRU6.
"The IRS insisted the new measures will not slow refunds and that it expects to still be able to process 90 percent of federal refunds within 21 days."
GOLDMAN SACHS ANNOUNCES $5B SETTLEMENT: Goldman Sachs announced Thursday that it would pay roughly $5 billion to settle a government probe.
The investment giant said the deal, if finalized, would resolve potential civil charges sought by a government task force exploring the creation and sale of securities backed by residential mortgages, an investment type central to the financial crisis. Authorities involved in the probe included the Justice Department, the states of New York and Illinois, and other regulators. Here's more from The Hill's Peter Schroeder: http://bit.ly/1OtZsJy.
BUSINESS, LABOR LEADERS SLAM TRUMP: You don't often see the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO united on an issue, but both organizations' leaders had harsh words for Donald TrumpDonald TrumpAre you a racist? Let's look at your position on voter ID. Hillary Clinton will be a president for Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders Texas poll: Trump holds narrow lead over Clinton MORE today at two different events.
Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donohue didn't name specific GOP candidates, but singled out Republican hopefuls who "are attacking whole groups of people based not on their conduct but on their ethnicity or religion, calling it "morally wrong and politically stupid" at the business group's annual State of American Business address: http://bit.ly/1nlT9Ru.
Soon after, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said at a panel he's been trying to convert Trump supporters among his group, the country's largest labor union: http://bit.ly/1RHT5sk.
ANOTHER ONE: The Republican presidential candidates will square off in Charleston, S.C. for another Fox Business debate tonight. The battle begins at 6 p.m. EST with the undercard followed by the main event at 9 p.m. We'll keep you posted on everything you need to know at TheHill.com and on Twitter (@TheHill). Meanwhile, check out the keys to success on debate night for the candidates, courtesy of The Hill's Niall Stanage: http://bit.ly/1ZytqXl.
HAPPY THURSDAY and welcome to Overnight Finance, where we're still trying to figure out the new Donald Trump dance. I'm Sylvan Lane, and here's your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.
Tonight's highlights include a big promise from Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellFive takeaways from Florida Senate debate Liberal groups call for delaying cures bill to next year Conservative groups urge against extending energy tax breaks MORE, more trouble for the Export-Import Bank and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and President Obama's push for driverless cars.
MCCONNELL VOWS BUDGET PUSH: Despite trepidation from his vulnerable GOP colleagues, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised to make "a major effort" to pass a budget in a contentious election year. The Hill's Alexander Bolton lays out what's on the line: http://bit.ly/1PuE72l.
"Republican senators facing tough reelections say passing a budget this year is not necessary because leaders set the top-line spending number for the annual appropriations bills in a deal last year that raised the debt limit.
"They say they're not necessarily scared of the political ramifications but don't want to waste time that could otherwise be spent moving the 12 annual spending bills on the floor instead of lumping them into one huge catchall package at year's end, as has become commonplace in recent years.
"'I want to get onto regular order process on appropriations, and I just don't see what a budget will do for us,' said Sen. Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonGOP plan: Link Dems to an email scandal GOP senator: Dems making ‘concerted effort to produce fraudulent votes’ Club for Growth: Anti-Trump spending proved to be 'good call' MORE (R-Wis.), a member of the Senate Budget Committee, who faces one of the toughest races in the country."
BUSINESS PREDICTS LAME DUCK TRADE VOTE: President Obama has urged Congress to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as soon as possible, but the massive trade deal won't likely see action until after the elections, said U.S. Chamber of Commerce top lobbyist Bruce Josten. House Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanRyan has little margin for error in Speaker vote Chaffetz says he'll vote for Trump The Trail 2016: Comeback in the works? MORE, who shepherded the legislation through Congress as House Ways and Means Committee chairman, asked for a vote as soon as possible, but Josten and the Chamber president highlighted obstacles today. The Hill's Vicki Needham fills us in: http://bit.ly/1Q0Zb3k.
"They noted that the push by Republican leaders on Capitol Hill to pass all 12 annual appropriations bills through the regular process could eat up critical floor time between now and their summer recess in July, when lawmakers will begin an early, extended break for the presidential nominating conventions. Consideration of the TPP must also adhere to a strict timeline set by fast-track authority legislation.
"Josten noted that an influential economic report that is due out in mid-May from the International Trade Commission also weighs heavily on the TPP timetable. Donohue said that the Obama administration must work with congressional lawmakers to address several aspects of the deal -- notably on pharmaceuticals and tobacco -- 'without opening up the agreement' and then go out and find the votes and determine the best time to take a vote."
THE FIGHT FOR FULL-STRENGTH EX-IM: The Export-Import Bank is still in action after a contentious reauthorization battle, and business groups are ready to storm Congress to get the board filled again. But the nomination is bogged down in election year politics. Here's Vicki Needham with more: http://bit.ly/1RHPR8d.
"President Obama this week nominated John Mark McWatters, a Republican, to fill one of three vacancies on the five-member Ex-Im board of directors. Bill Reinsch, the head of the National Foreign Trade Council, said business groups plan to spring into action... But Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who will be in charge of vetting McWatters, appears to be in no hurry to move on the nomination.
"Asked about McWatters this week, the senator said he was focusing on his reelection race."
OBAMA PROMISES $4B FOR SELF-DRIVING CARS: The president said he wants Congress to spend the money "to accelerate the development and adoption of safe vehicle automation through real-world pilot projects." Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony FoxxFeds issue cybersecurity guidelines for automakers Great Lakes senators seek boost for maritime system Feds create advisory panel for self-driving cars MORE said automated cars would help save money and lives, and auto companies praised the initiative, but warned it wouldn't create a market for driverless cars. The Hill's Keith Laing explores the road to automated driving: http://bit.ly/1RosDn7.
NIGHTCAP: The three lucky Powerball winners are even luckier than you might think: They'll pay no state income taxes on their winnings. The winners hail from Florida and Tennessee, states with no income tax, and California, which exempts lottery prizes from its taxes. Even so they'll still pay a hefty federal tax bill: http://bit.ly/1Kg2ijo.
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