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Tax brief: IRS lost email investigation continues, while gas tax could be phased out

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(Read caption) Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen testifies under subpoena before the House Oversight Committee as lawmakers continue their probe of whether tea party groups were improperly targeted for increased scrutiny by the IRS, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, June 23, 2014.

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Deja vu all over again, and then some. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, who began his tenure at IRS in December, testified last night before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee for about four hours on the loss of former Treasury official Lois Lerner’s emails and the crash of her hard drive. House GOP members believe that the hard drive was intentionally destroyed. They accused the Commissioner of lying and hiding the “spoliation of evidence,” and also tested his knowledge of criminal statute, statistics, and vocabulary. Representative Elijah Cummings likened the hearing to “hell.” Its sequel begins this morning: White House attorney Jennifer O’Connor and National Archivist David Ferriero will appear.

The federal Highway Trust Fund? Some want to call the whole thing off. Last week saw the release of a bipartisan bill to raise the federal gasoline tax and replenish the near-broke Highway Trust Fund. But this summer, stay tuned for renewed attention on last year’s House and Senate GOP bills to phase out the federal gasoline tax and turn over most of the federal transportation program to states. The Senate and House proposals would reduce the tax from 18.4 cents per gallon to 3.7 cents per gallon over five years.

But the Child Tax Credit could be expanded. Kansas Republican Representative Lynn Jenkins has a new bill that would index the $1,000 child tax credit and income cutoffs to inflation and remove a marriage penalty. The House Ways and Means Committee plans to vote on the bill tomorrow.

Your life insurance benefits could cover your former colleagues’ pensions. As much of 20 percent of all new life insurance policies are taken out by companies on their employees. The cash surrender value of policies Bank of America has taken on its employees is nearly $18 billion. The premiums, investment returns on the policies, and death benefits are tax deductible. Companies and banks say those dollars cover the costs of long-term health care, deferred compensation, and pension obligations. But companies and banks can use the tax-free gains however they want.

There’s a new tax sheriff in town, in GreeceAfter the country’s top tax official abruptly resigned after barely a year. Katarina Savvaidou, a lawyer and  senior manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers, has been named to the post. Greece has committed to reform its tax system and raise tax revenues as a condition of its $326 billion bailout by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

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