More say it’s OK to cheat on taxes; skiing wins TV

STRAIGHT THINKING ON TAXES? The fear of being audited on their income taxes is rising, one poll shows, even as more Americans say it’s OK to cheat on a return.

The IRS Oversight Board, which guides the Internal Revenue Service, reported that 13 percent of those polled last year said it was acceptable to cheat, up from 9 percent in 2008.

At the same time, 39 percent of respondents said their fear of an audit by the IRS had a “great deal” of influence on how honest they were in paying taxes. That’s up from 36 percent in 2008 and the highest level since the survey began in 2002, when 29 percent said the prospect of an audit kept them honest.

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Yet, 81 percent maintained that their “personal integrity,” not their fear, was the big factor in making them file correct returns to the government.

The survey, which was taken in August, also suggested many Americans would approve of new regulations for tax preparers. [Read the full article]

Washington Senate Democrats want to temporarily raise the sales tax by three-tenths of a penny, hike the cigarette tax by $1 per pack and close a long list of tax exemptions to help balance the state budget.

The Senate’s budget proposal, revealed Tuesday morning, calls for about $920 million in additional tax revenue to help solve the state’s $2.8 billion budget deficit.

The tax plan is larger than one proposed last week by Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire but smaller than what many education and social service advocates have been pleading for since the legislative session began.

The budget also would cut about $840 million in spending, including closing or downsizing prisons and facilities for the developmentally disabled.

One-time fixes, such as draining the Rainy Day Fund, would account for about $500 million of the budget-balancing solution. [Read the full article]

Employees at Wall Street financial firms collected more than $20 billion in bonuses in 2009, the year after taxpayers bailed out the financial sector amid the economic meltdown, New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said Tuesday. The payouts were about 17 percent higher than the previous year’s bonuses.

Total compensation at the largest securities firms grew beyond that figure and profits could surpass what he calls an unprecedented $55 billion last year, DiNapoli said. That’s nearly three times Wall Street’s record increase, a rate of growth that is boosted in part by the record losses in 2008 of nearly $43 billion, the Democrat said.

“Wall Street is vital to New York’s economy, and the dollars generated by the industry help the state’s bottom line,” said DiNapoli. [Read the full article]

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday ordered sweeping restrictions on state authorities, boards and commissions to curb what he said was a disturbing pattern of wasteful spending.

In issuing his 15th executive order since being sworn in as governor a month ago, Christie directed all such agencies to terminate contracts with outside lobbyists as soon as legally permissible and banned the hiring of new lobbyists or the renewal of existing contracts without approval from the governor’s office.

The governor also capped all travel by employees of the authorities at $250 a day unless otherwise approved by the governor’s office.

“The independent boards, authorities, commissions, they spend billions of dollars every year of taxpayer money, fee money, toll money that is collected from the people of New Jersey and others,” the governor said. [Read the full article]

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