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Accounting News Roundup: Checking the Facts on The Buffett Rule; Pols Dodge Details on Tax Reform; Audit Discovers $16 Muffins for DOJ Event | 09.21.11

Obama, taxes and the ‘Buffett Rule’ [Fact Checker/WaPo]
Still, there are so many numbers tossed around about taxes that it seems a good time to take a step back and look at the data. After all, Republicans frequently note that 50 percent of Americans pay no income taxes. So how is it that Democrats can complain that billionaires are paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries? And does the so-called “Buffett Rule” make sense as tax policy?

GOP Leaders Urge the Fed Not to Act [WSJ]
Top Republican congressional leaders, in a rare effort to directly influence Federal Reserve policy, expressed reservations about the central bank taking additional steps to spur the recovery, saying further action could harm the economy. House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), and two other GOP leaders, in a letter Monday to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, urged Fed officials to “resist further extraordinary intervention in the U.S. economy.” The four lawmakers wrote that it wasn’t clear the Fed’s earlier attempts to support the economy through large purchases of government bonds, called quantitative easing, had “facilitated economic growth or reduced the unemployment rate.” They said those efforts had likely increased economic uncertainty.

S.E.C. Hid Its Lawyer’s Madoff Ties [NYT]
After Bernard L. Madoff’s giant Ponzi scheme was revealed, the Securities and Exchange Commission went to great lengths to make sure that none of its employees working on the case posed a conflict of interest, barring anyone who had accepted gifts or attended a Madoff wedding. But as a new report made clear on Tuesday, one top official received a pass: David M. Becker, the S.E.C.’s general counsel, who went on to recommend how the scheme’s victims would be compensated, despite his family’s $2 million inheritance from a Madoff account.

Politicians dodge the details in US tax debate [FT]
Democrats and Republicans have claimed that reforming America’s outdated tax system is at the forefront of their respective agendas on Capitol Hill, but politicians on both side of the aisle are playing a subtle game of chicken that may undermine the chances for change.

HRBN: The Annals of Fraud [The Financial Investigator]
Roddy Boyd: “Harbin has made up tens of millions of dollars of annual revenue and receivables for several years running, according to assertions made in a pair of interviews with the senior management of Jiangsu Liyang, a company that Harbin has asserted in its 10-Ks is one of its best customers.”

Minimalist workspace [ABD]
Too much clutter?

U.S. Alleges Poker Site Stacked Deck [WSJ]
As professional poker players, Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson and Rafael Furst got rich by bluffing players out of their money in televised tournaments. Now, the U.S. government alleges that they and their colleagues used this same approach in running one of the world’s largest online poker sites. On Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department in a civil suit accused Messrs. Lederer, Ferguson and Furst, and another director of the company behind the Full Tilt Poker website, of defrauding thousands of online poker players out of more than $300 million that is still owed to them. The government said that, in total, the 23 owners of the site had taken out $444 million in distributions over the years.

A Tax Others Embrace, U.S. Opposes [NYT]
President Obama’s proposal for a new tax on millionaires echoes a call in many countries struggling with budget deficits and overwhelming debts to make the wealthy pay more. Britain and France have imposed new taxes on their highest earners — and Italy, Spain, Greece and Japan are considering similar moves, despite some protests. Whether the taxes on the rich in Europe raise enough money to close much of their budget shortfalls, they are being promoted as a step toward economic fairness at a time when governments are cutting spending on social programs like pensions, health care and education.

A $16 muffin? Justice Dept. audit finds ‘wasteful’ and extravagant spending [WaPo]
Justice Department auditors also criticized a $76-per-person lunch at a conference at a Hilton in San Francisco, featuring slow-cooked Berkshire pork carnitas, hearts-of-romaine salad — and coffee at $8.24 a cup.

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