Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for April 28th, 2021

A departure from plant-only: chicken hearts

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I generally stick to a whole-food plant-only diet for health reasons. It’s pragmatic, not ideological. So from time to time I will have a non-plant food. Tonight it was chicken hearts.

I just received my new Max Burton 6600 induction burner, which has a nine-inch induction coil, so that my cast-iron skillets will heat evenly. Tonight I tried it for the first time.

Can’t say that I lack the controls — the UX person who designed this has an AA degree at best — but performance was excellent. Even heaat.

Cooked onions well in a little olive oil with salt and pepper. Once they were starting to caramelize, I added half the chicken hearts I had bought (along with tung ho, some weird Chinese broccoli (very stalky), Taiwan cauliflower (and they definitely labeled it “Taiwan” cauliflower), and bitter meon (3)). They cooked better, and that will now be my practice.

Tomorrow I’m going to cook the remaining half of the chicken hearts with scallions, fresh garlic, and bitter melon. And maybe a jalapeño.

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2021 at 5:21 pm

America’s tax cheats

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Judd Legum has an excellent column in Popular Information. It begins:

On Wednesday evening, Biden will introduce the “American Families Plan,” a sweeping proposal that calls for hundreds of billions in spending on “child care, universal prekindergarten, and paid family and sick leave.” The package would be paid for, in part, by modestly higher tax rates on capital gains and wealthy individuals. But the single largest source of funding, an estimated $700 billion over 10 years, is expected to come from cracking down on Americans who cheat on their taxes.

How is this possible?

It’s not the case that the typical taxpayer is trying to shortchange Uncle Sam. The vast majority of Americans — more than 80% — pay the taxes they owe on time. For most people, cheating isn’t even an option. Their taxes are automatically withheld from each paycheck. People who receive W-2 forms have a tax compliance rate approaching 100%.

But some “taxpayers with more complex sources of income, most of whom are in high-income brackets” are able to avoid paying what they owe. In recent testimony before Congress, IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said that he believes the “tax gap” — the difference between what is paid to the IRS and what is owed — could exceed $1 trillion annually.

A paper published in March from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that Americans in the top 1% underreport their income by an average of 21%. These individuals then hire “sophisticated lawyers and accountants capable of expanding years and significant resources on fighting IRS claims.”

The privileged few are taking advantage of an agency that has been hollowed out. Years of ideological warfare have left the IRS with a small fraction of its previous capacity to enforce the law. It’s easier than ever for the wealthy to get away with cheating.

Biden’s plan attempts to reverse these trends. His proposal would invest about $80 billion  in the IRS over 10 years in an effort to recover $780 billion.

Kneecapping the IRS

The IRS “lost more than 33,378 full-time positions” between 2010 and 2020. Many of these were auditors tasked with catching tax cheats. As of 2019, there were 8,526 auditors working at the IRS. The last time the agency had fewer than 10,000 people working in that role was 1953 “when the economy was a seventh of its current size.” As a result, the IRS conducted “675,000 fewer audits in 2017 than it did in 2010, a drop in the audit rate of 42 percent.” For the top 1%, audit rates “have fallen from about 8 percent in 2011 to 1.6 percent in 2019.”

The IRS currently lacks the resources to . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2021 at 4:15 pm

The IRS Used to Be a Guard Dog. Republicans Neutered It.

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Michael Mechanic has a good article in Mother Jones, which begins:

Taxpayers and politicians are forever complaining about rich people taking advantage of “loopholes” in the tax code, but the IRS, America’s most beloved government agency, doesn’t view things such as carried interest or the special tax treatment of offshore insurers—which hedge funders parlayed into an elaborate tax-avoidance scheme—as loopholes.

The law is the law, an agency spokesman told me recently, and subject to interpretation. If a family or company is audited and found in violation, it can settle up, protest to an IRS appeals board, or take the agency to tax court—a little-known venue where the white-shoe lawyers for America’s dynasties ply their trade. If the well-heeled taxpayer loses their case, they can appeal. If they win, they may well stand to save millions of dollars—or billions. And often they win.

That’s assuming they are audited in the first place. President Joe Biden is prepared to announce that his administration will seek $80 billion to beef up IRS audits of high earners—a necessary move given that the water carriers for the dynasties have done their utmost to make such audits exceedingly rare. The Republican Party has waged open warfare on the IRS since at least 1994, chipping away at its resources and enforcement abilities even as mainstream Republican lawmakers and candidates called for the agency’s abolition.

Administration officials estimate that a 10-year, $80 billion investment in IRS enforcement could yield $700 billion for the Treasury. And indeed, there’s a lot of catching up to do when it comes to the superrich. By the end of the Bush years, the IRS was auditing fewer than 1 in 10 taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of $10 million–plus, and just 1 in 15 with incomes from $5 million to $10 million.

These high-end audit rates increased substantially under President Barack Obama, but congressional Republicans, embittered by the passage of the Affordable Care Act and the surcharges it imposed on the wealthiest 1 percent, hit back hard. After regaining the House in 2010, they systematically eviscerated the IRS budget and launched a series of dog-and-pony-show hearings based on claims that the agency was unfairly targeting conservative nonprofits, though it later turned out the IRS was also scrutinizing liberal ones.

During a contentious 2015 hearing highlighted in a must-read piece by ProPublica, Representative Mike Kelly, a Pennsylvania Republican, laid into John Koskinen, Obama’s feisty IRS commissioner. Koskinen, in a recent speech, had griped that his overworked employees would have to “do less with less,” and referred to the assault on his budget as “a tax cut for tax cheats.”

“What in the world were you thinking of?” Kelly demanded. Such talk could crush worker morale and encourage tax evasion, he said. Koskinen countered that the cuts had indeed crippled his agency’s ability to enforce the law, and now he was worried his congressional foes were about to make the situation worse. “I don’t want you saying later on, you know, you should have told us about this, that it is serious,” he told the senators. “It is serious.”

Koskinen’s warnings were ignored, and the cuts continued. From 2010 to 2018, even as the IRS received 9 percent more tax returns, its budget was slashed by $2.9 billion—a 20 percent reduction that cost the agency more than one-fifth of its workforce. Investigations of non-filers plummeted and the amount of outstanding tax debt the IRS formally wrote off (based on the 10-year statute of limitations for collections) more than doubled—from less than $15 billion in 2010 to more than $34 billion in 2019.

Most notably, the bloodbath resulted in an exodus of experienced auditors, people with the expertise required to decode the financial voodoo of the wealthiest taxpayers and their deliberately opaque partnerships. It can “take months to identify the person who represents the partnership,” IRS auditors told the Government Accountability Office in 2014.

Virtually no partnerships were audited in 2018. By then, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2021 at 1:32 pm

Vintage Lenthéric shaving soap and recent Ascension razor make a good shave — with Origins Fire Fighter™ as surprise star

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Now that this Yaqi silvertip is broken in, it does a wonderful job, and I do love the fragrance of this Lenthéric shaving soap — its lather is excellent, and its fragrance exceptional.

Three passes of the Ascension left my face perfectly smooth, and a dot of Origins Fire Fighter aftershave balm end the shave on a pleasant note. This balm dries down quickly, leaving my skin soft and smooth. I rather like this balm. Its ingredients:

Water\Aqua\Eau; Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Anthemis Nobilis (Chamomile) Flower Water, Myrtus Communis (Myrtle) Leaf Water, Butylene Glycol, Dimethicone, Ceteth-20, Coriandrum Sativum (Coriander) Seed Oil *, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Peel Oil*, Salvia Sclarea (Clary Sage) Oil*, Fusanus Spicatus (Australian Sandalwood) Wood Oil*, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil*, Lavandula Hybrida (Lavandin) Oil*, Cymbopogon Martini (Indian Palmarosa) Oil*, Pelargonium Graveolens (Geranium) Flower Oil*, Eucalyptus Radiata (Eucalyptus) Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Citral, Geraniol, Linalool, Citronellol, Limonene, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Caffeine, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Flour, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe) Leaf Juice, Pantethine, Sodium Hyaluronate, Glycerin, Polysorbate 20, Silica, Potassium Carbomer, Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Disodium Edta, Phenoxyethanol * Essential Oil <ILN33684> Please be aware that ingredient lists may change or vary from time to time. Please refer to the ingredient list on the product package you receive for the most up to date list of ingredients.

I think I’ll use this balm more often. It’s light on fragrance but strong on performance.


Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2021 at 10:29 am

Posted in Shaving

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