It’s probably never a bad time to be rich. But the good times for America’s wealthy could soon be a little less so.
President Barack Obama wants to boost income taxes for the wealthy to pay for tax cuts for everybody else. He wants to limit the deductions that high-income families take for mortgage interest and charity contributions to help pay for providing more people with health insurance.
House Democrats are planning to hit the wealthy with even higher income taxes to pay for their version of a health care overhaul.
Between the plans, a family of four with an income of $5 million a year would see its annual income taxes skyrocket by more than $440,000. A similar family making $800,000 a year would get a tax increase of $30,000, according to an analysis by the financial services firm Deloitte Tax.
“I still think being wealthy is better than being poor,” Clint Stretch, who heads tax policy at Deloitte Tax, said with a touch of understatement. “But this is a pretty high proposed tax burden.”
Taxing the rich to pay for health insurance would represent a significant departure from the way Americans have financed safety net programmes in the past.
Both Social Security and Medicare are supported by broad based payroll taxes. Although the rich pay more — they have bigger incomes — the burden is shared by the middle class and even the working poor.
By contrast, the health care plan working its way through the House would impose $544 billion in new taxes over the next decade on just 1.2 percent of households — joint filers making more than $350,000 a year.
The bill would impose a new 5.4 percent income surtax on couples making more than $1 million a year, starting in 2011. Couples making more than $350,000 would have to pay a surtax of 1 percent tax and those making more than $500,000 would pay a 1.5 percent surtax.
If certain savings in the health care system are not achieved by 2013, the surtax would rise to 2 percent for families making more than $350,000 and to 3 percent for those making more than $500,000.
For a family of four making $450,000 a year, the initial tax increase would be $1,000, according to the Deloitte analysis. But for the super rich, like a single filer making $5 million a year, the tax increase would be $452,000. The analysis assumes a typical mix of earned income, capital gains and itemised deductions for each income level.
Democrats said that for most of the affected taxpayers, the surtax would be far smaller.
“What we’re talking about is frankly very, very small amounts for the overwhelming majority of people who will pay it,” said Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala.
The top marginal income tax rate now is 35 percent, on income above $372,950. Obama wants to boost the top rate to 39.6 percent in 2011 by allowing some of the tax cuts enacted under former President George W. Bush to expire.
The House Democrats’ proposed health care surtax would increase the top rate to 45 percent, making it the highest top rate since 1986, when it was 50 percent.
Republicans complain that some taxpayers would face marginal tax rates above 50 percent, when federal and state taxes are combined. They also say that tax increases on the wealthy hurt small business owners who typically pay their business taxes on their individual returns.
Democrats say the tax increases would affect only 4.1 percent of tax filers who report small business income. Those small businesses, however, tend to be the ones that employ the most workers, according to data from the National Federation of Independent Business.
“We shouldn’t have to resurrect the 1970s to remember that when tax rates go too high, people lose the incentive to build new businesses and create jobs,” said Rep. Wally Herger, R-Calif. “These massive tax increases are no substitute for real fiscal responsibility.”
Obama has tried to make the rich a popular target for tax increases as Democrats struggle to find ways to pay for his plan, intended to assure that virtually everyone gets health care. He regularly portrays the wealthy as big winners under Bush, noting that their taxes dropped and incomes soared during Bush’s eight years in office.
“I think the best way to fund (health care) is for people like myself who have been very lucky, to pay a little bit more,” Obama said recently.
The argument, however, omits the fact that Bush also cut taxes for middle- and low-income people. Their incomes didn’t jump as much as they did for the wealthy, but effective federal tax rates for middle-income and low-wage workers are at or near 30-year lows.
This year, 47 percent of filers won’t owe any federal income taxes — including some families making as much as $50,000 a year, according to separate projections by the Tax Policy Centre and Deloitte Tax.
“Right now, if you are middle class or below, you are not expected to help pay to solve these problems,” said Stretch, the tax policy adviser.
FG Donates Foods, Agricultural Inputs To IDPs In FCT
The Federal Government yesterday donated food and non-food items worth millions of naira to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Presenting the items to the IDPs in Abuja, the Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI), Alhaji Tijani Ahmed, said the donation was to commemorate the 2023 Independence Day celebration.
The Tide’s source reports that the beneficiaries of the donations were displaced persons at Durumi, New Karshi and Wassa IDP camps in the FCT.
The displaced persons are predominantly from Gwoza in Borno and Adamawa, who relocated to Abuja, sequel to their displacement as a result of Boko Haram insurgency in the North East.
Addressing the IDPs, Ahmed reiterated President Bola Tinubu’s resolve towards ensuring inclusiveness and assured that the Commission would continue to drive innovation and actively seek sustainable solutions for all persons of concern.
“Today, we gather in Durumi, Abuja, on a mission to extend a helping hand to those residing in the Durumi IDPs Camp. Our purpose is to critical support in the form of agricultural inputs, educational supplies and food care packs.
“As our nation celebrates its 63rd Independence Day, we renew our unwavering commitment to addressing the pressing needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs).
“Our resolve is clear: no one, regardless of their gender, age, or vulnerabilities, should be left without vital support, echoing the President’s ‘Renewed Hope’ Agenda.
“The importance of providing assistance to IDPs cannot be overstated. Neglecting those in displacement can have profound social and economic consequences for both the displaced and their host communities,” he said.
According to him, in the face of protracted displacement crises that often affect IDPs, ensuring access to assistance during such times is of utmost importance.
“In keeping with the commission’s sustainable solutions strategy and our dedication to the well-being of host communities, we are proud to announce the provision of essential agricultural inputs.
“These initiatives aim to empower our displaced population, many of whom are skilled farmers, to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.
“Furthermore, we are equally committed to providing Educational Supplies to ensure that IDP children and adolescents have access to learning materials, facilitating their educational growth and development.
“Additionally, we are distributing food care packs to alleviate immediate hunger and provide much-needed sustenance to those in need,” he added.
The educational materials donated included 400 dozens of customised exercise books, 180 pieces of school sandals, 10 pieces of white board
and 10 pieces of white board dusters.
Others are 180 pieces of customised school bags, 180 pieces of customised plastic tables and chairs, biros and pencils.
The IDPs were also given agricultural inputs such as 26 pieces of pesticides, 26 pieces of herbicides, 26 pieces of insecticides, 86 sprayers and 25 irrigation pumps.
While the food items were 97 bags of 25kg rice, 97 cartons of spaghetti, 97 bags of 1kg Semovita, 20 cartons of vegetable oil, 26 cartons of seasoning and 22 cartons of salt.
On behalf of the beneficiaries, the Chairman of Durumi Camp, Ibrahim Ahmad, appreciated the Federal Government for the donations.
NERC Unveils Penalties For Electricity Offences
In its bid to ensure strict compliance to the laws enshrined in the 2023 Electricity Act, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has laid out the specifics of various electricity-related offences and their respective penalties as outlined in the Act.
NERC disclosed this through its official Twitter handle Last Thursday.
The commission gave a breakdown of the penalties to include Impersonation offense with the penalties of N300,000 fine or a prison term of at least 7 years, or both.
The offence of Non-compliance by Licensee, the commission stated, attracts daily penalty not exceeding N20,000,000 for non-compliance with the Commission’s orders.
It said, “unauthorized Connection, Reconnection, or Meter Alteration is faced with the penalties of a Jail term of not more than three years or fine not exceeding N500,000 with an additional fine of N10,000 for every continuing day of the offence.
Physical Assault on Staff has the penalties of Fine of up to N1,000,000 or imprisonment of up to 6 months, or both.
According to the commission, unauthorized Ownership or Engagement in Electricity Business is faced with the penalties of fine of at least ten times the application and license fees for the contravened license, a jail term not exceeding 5 years, or both with an additional order for permanent forfeiture of the undertaking to NERC.
“Intentionally Cutting off the Electric Supply Line: Penalties, Fine of not less than N300,000; Aiding or Abetting an Offense, Penalties, Vary based on the offence abetted; Acts of Non-compliance or Contravention, Penalties, Jail term of not more than 3 months or a fine of N500,000 with an additional daily penalty of not more than N100,000 for a continuing offence”.
It further revealed that Damage to Electricity Supply Material attracts the penalties of Fine of N300,000 and restoration of the damaged material or line while Receipt of Stolen Electrical Property has a 14-year jail term or a fine of not more than three times the value of the stolen property or both jail term and fine.
For Theft of Electricity (Tapping, Unlawful Connection, Meter Tampering, Bypassing), the penalties are 3-year jail term or a fine or both with destruction of Public Streetlights having Fine of up to N200,000 as penalty.
NERC said, “Non-compliance with Rules, Orders, Licenses, or Decisions: Penalties, Fine of N500,000 or a 3-month jail term, with an additional penalty of N100,000 for every day the offence continues.
“False Declaration: Penalties, Fine of not more than N100,000 or a jail term of not more than 6 months or both; and Tampering with Electric Lines or Material: Penalties, 3 to 5-year jail term or a fine of not less than N500,000 or both”.
Recall that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu signed the 2023 Electricity Act into law in June 203.
The Act was signed to resolve all challenges within the Electricity Supply Industry as well as promote competition among operators and increase the country’s electricity supply capacity.
Rising Costs Delays Clean Hydrogen Dreams
Despite increasing interest, green hydrogen production is hampered by high costs and a lack of adequate policy and financial backing.
Recent projects, such as the green hydrogen corridor between Spain and the Netherlands, demonstrate the global push for hydrogen dominance.
The IEA report emphasizes the urgent need for government support and R&D investments to reduce costs and drive the hydrogen market.
There is currently not enough funding and support for hydrogen projects to roll it out on the scale they require to achieve the net-zero scenario by 2050, according to several energy experts.
The widespread rollout of clean hydrogen projects has been restricted due to the high costs involved with producing the clean energy source, which is much more expensive to make than dirtier forms of hydrogen derived from fossil fuels.
In addition, while companies worldwide are showing increasing interest in green hydrogen, many are failing to get the government backing required to commence operations.
Green hydrogen is being viewed as increasingly critical to the global green transition as it is a versatile energy carrier that can be used in a range of applications from heating to transportation fuel.
It provides an alternative to natural gas and fossil fuel-derived fuels and can also be used to power cars and other forms of transport instead of electric batteries.The fuel is produced by using renewable energy sources to power electrolysis.
There has been increasing interest in green hydrogen in recent years, with various regions of the world competing to gain sectoral dominance – from the Middle East to Europe.
Last year, the Spanish energy firm Compañía Española de Petróleos (Cepsa) partnered with the Port of Rotterdam to establish “the first green hydrogen corridor between southern and northern Europe”.
The aim is to develop a green hydrogen supply chain between two of Europe’s main ports – the Port of Algeciras in southern Spain and the Dutch Port of Rotterdam.
Meanwhile, several energy companies are investing in developing green hydrogen projects in some of the world’s emerging economies to drive down costs.
However, this month, a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) suggested that rising costs and lagging policy support from governments are limiting clean hydrogen’s potential.
There have been several announcements about the launch of green hydrogen projects around the globe over the last couple of years, but the report found that many are being significantly delayed due to a lack of policy government support.
The Executive Director of the IEA, Fatih Birol, said the world had seen “incredible momentum” behind low-emission hydrogen projects in recent years “but a challenging economic environment will now test the resolve of hydrogen developers and policymakers to follow through on planned projects”.
Hydrogen produced in a low-carbon process continues to account for less than 1 percent of the world’s total hydrogen production. This is perhaps surprising given the momentum in green hydrogen projects in recent years and the media attention given to the energy source.
In addition, green hydrogen has been identified by the IEA and several other energy organisations as one of the most promising fuels for reducing emissions in hard-to-decarbonise industries, such as steel and chemicals.
The report found that the annual production of low-carbon hydrogen, including that derived from using captured CO2 if all projects are realised could total 38 million tonnes by 2030.
The pipeline includes 27 million tonnes from electrolysis and 10 million tonnes from carbon capture. However, this seems increasingly unlikely as a final investment decision has been made for just 4 percent of the projects.
Projects have been further jeopardised by high energy prices, rising inflation and global supply chain disruptions owing to both the Covid pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
By: Felicity Bradstock
Bradstock writes for oilprice.com
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