Jeff Stingley shares updates from Washington, D.C.
Simplified tax forms for seniors
In the near future, taxpayers age 65 and older might be able to use a new tax form that will allow an expanded number of income sources when they submit their tax returns. The Seniors’ Tax Simplification Act of 2013 would create a new form, 1040SR, to simplify the filing process for individuals when including income from Social Security benefits, investments, retirement plans, annuities, capital gains, dividends and interest. The current form, 1040EZ, doesn’t allow inclusion of income from certain income sources, such as Social Security.
U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem (S.D.) and others believe the current tax filing system is too complicated for seniors. With more than 100,000 pages of filing rules and regulations, many people believe that the tax system is too complicated, in general. In a bi-partisan effort, 18 House members and five senators introduced the Seniors’ Tax Simplification Act. More senators and representatives are likely to sign onto this legislation, so it can be brought before the full Congress.
A solution to sequestration?
I’m surprised that a solution to sequestration federal budget cuts that began in March has not yet been found. So far, the impacts of the cuts seem to be subtle within the collective conscience of our nation. There was talk of eliminating federal meat and egg inspectors, but that didn’t happen. And some airports have experienced flight delays linked to budget cuts. But I don’t believe the general public has experienced enough trouble or stress to let Congress know their feelings about sequestration at this point. I believe that time is coming as the effects of approximately $85 billion in budget cuts take effect this year. And cuts are scheduled to continue every year through 2021.
Both the House and Senate have passed budget resolutions for the next fiscal year, but resolutions don’t mean certain action. They provide an overview of the direction the House or Senate would like to take, but no money is appropriated. Committees in the Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate are now working on President Obama’s budget proposal. Each will apply their respective philosophical principles as they recommend funding levels. The divide in thinking between the House and Senate is wide. It’s too early to judge if Congress will be able to pass its first budget in four years, or if a Continuing Resolution will again be necessary to continue funding our government when the new fiscal year begins in October.
Obamacare’s effect on Medicare
In October, subsidized individual health insurance plans will be offered through state-based exchanges as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly called Obamacare). Exchanges are government-regulated and standardized health care plans.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will provide information to the Good Samaritan Society about what this will mean for individuals enrolled in Medicare or Medicare Advantage, and we’ll share this information with you. It’s important to know if there is anything you’ll need to do. At this point, all indications are that you will be able to continue in your current plan if you are enrolled in Medicare Advantage or a similar product.
I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on these topics, and what kind of information related to Congress and the White House would be of most interest to you.
By Jeff Stingley
Director of Public Affairs