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Sunday January 25, 2015

Washington News

Washington Hotline

Obama and Paul Support Economic Zones

At a January 9 White House meeting attended by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), President Obama announced five "Promise Zones." In the 2013 State of the Union Address, the President promoted the concept of economic empowerment zones. The concept had been initially made popular by Rep. Jack Kemp (R-NY) when he was a member of Congress. Both the Clinton and Bush Administrations employed versions of the idea.

Sen. Paul introduced the "Economic Freedom Act" last month and has suggested that major tax reductions in the economic zones would increase employment.

The President announced the first five Promise Zones. They are San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Each entity submitted a list of specific strategies that would be involved in the program.

1. San Antonio – There would be a partnership with St. Philip's College to encourage job creation and training. Children would be enrolled in Pre-K programs and local schools would focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

2. Los Angeles – A major effort would be made to partner with housing developers to provide affordable housing. The Full Service Community Schools model would be expanded from seven schools to 45 Promise Zone schools by 2019. The city will partner with the Los Angeles Community School District to facilitate technology training.

3. Philadelphia – A new adult education, small business and entrepreneurial education program would be developed together with Drexel University and the William Penn Foundation. Efforts would be continued to prevent and reduce crime.

4. Southeastern Kentucky – The Kentucky Highlands Investment core strategies would be implemented to produce sustained economic development. There would be a Promise Zone Loan Fund and educational initiatives in partnership with the University of Kentucky, Berea College and Eastern Kentucky State University.

5. Choctaw Nation – There will be a partnership involving Oklahoma State University, Eastern Oklahoma State University and the Kiamichi Technology Center to provide technical education. The infrastructure development and economic diversification will also produce significant employment.

There are specific requirements for each Promise Zone.

1. Accountability – There will be clear goals for jobs and economic activity that will be measured and publicly reported.

2. Federal Partnership – The federal government will provide staff and funding to supplement the local efforts.

3. National Service – Five AmeriCorps VISTA staff members will be assigned to each zone to manage volunteers and facilitate the actions involved.

4. Tax Reduction – Businesses in the zones will receive favorable federal and state tax rates.

Sen. Paul supported the concept of the zones. He stated, "I am supportive of the President's ideas. What he said was uplifting and encouraging. We need to do something more dramatic" than the current Promise Zones. Paul has proposed very substantial tax reductions for the city of Detroit and other locations as part of his plan.

IRS 2014 Identity Theft Tips

On January 7, the IRS launched a 2014 campaign to reduce identity theft and tax refund fraud. There is a three part IRS program involved. The IRS has published tips for taxpayers, increased internal staffing to uncover fraud and is proceeding with criminal prosecution of offenders.

The IRS published specific "taxpayer tips to avoid identity theft."

1. Social Security Cards – Do not carry them with you or give out your Social Security number to businesses or individuals unless it is required.

2. Credit Reports – Check the major credit sources each year to see whether or not there are unusual actions that suggest your identity has been stolen.

3. Personal Information – Store in a safe place in your home. Shred old bills and financial information.

4. Personal Computer – Make use of an anti-virus software program that is updated over the internet.

5. Phone Contacts – Be cautious in giving out personal information unless you are certain of the identification of the person you are speaking with.

6. Tax Returns – Monitor your returns and refunds. Watch for more than one return filed or an unexpected large refund. If there is a major change in state or federal benefits due to a reported large change in your income, investigate the reason.

If you think you are a victim of identity theft, then you should report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission at 877-438-4338. You also may report the theft to local police and contact the fraud departments of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You should also contact your bank and close any affected accounts.

Information is available on www.irs.gov. Search for "identity theft" and the key information and phone numbers will be available.

The IRS has created a specific organization to handle identity theft. You can also contact the Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490.

The third part of the IRS effort is an increase in prosecutions. Indictments for identity theft increased from 165 in 2011 to 1,050 in 2013. Those individuals who are sentenced for identity theft increased from 80 in 2011 to 438 in 2013.

Published January 10, 2014
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