Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

March 28, 2006


Host: Michael Grant

Legislative Leadership


  • The state legislature is working on issues such as immigration, the state budget and English Language Learning at the State Capitol. Senate President Ken Bennett and House Speaker Jim Weiers join us in the studio for an update on those issues and others.
Guests:
  • Ken Bennett - -- President , State Senate
  • Jim Weiers - -- Speaker of the State House of Representatives


View Transcript
Cary Pfeffer:
Tonight on "Horizon," rallies held over the past several days protest federal immigration legislation. Meantime, Arizona lawmakers are working on immigration issues at the state capitol. Legislative leaders join us. Tax time is near. An update on e-filing and tax laws and new tax scams to watch out for. Those stories next on "Horizon".

Cary Pfeffer:
Good evening. Welcome to "Horizon." I'm Cary Pfeffer. Tonight I'm filling in for Michael Grant. While immigration and border security issues certain to impact the state are being debated on Capitol Hill in Washington, protesters at our state capitol and around the nation demonstrate their concerns. Arizona lawmakers are working at the legislature on state immigration issues. The budget and English Language Learning program are some of the key issues. And joining us to talk about those issues is President of the State Senate, Ken Bennett; and Speaker of the State House of Representatives, Jim Weiers. Let's talk about immigration. It has been on the minds of people and so much a front-page topic over the last few days certainly. Once again, today there were students that came down to the capitol and spent time. Putting aside the issues of whether they were supposed to be in school or not, we will let the individual administrators -- Senator Bennett, is that a good thing that they are spending time at the capitol and at least aware of the importance of the place?

Ken Bennett:
Obviously you want people to be involved in the political process and aware of what is going on, but it does feel like somebody's figured out that they can skip a little school if they just drag the protests out so... But I think it points to the seriousness of the issue and how critical it is both at the federal and state levels that we get some comprehensive resolution.

Cary Pfeffer:
And along those lines, speaker Weiers, give us a feel for the top two or three issues that you think you and other house members will be trying to wrestle with on the state level when the topic comes up.

Jim Weiers:
I think the first issue, the issue at hand, is illegal immigration illegal? Yeah, it is. You have those that say let's ignore it and not do anything about it, and others that say let's do something about it. That is where the debate and controversy starts, let's do something about it. Ironically, the protests that you saw last week we have legislation working its way through the system that would create a felony status for somebody here illegally. Appropriation bills for radar being placed on the border. English as the official language. Who could object to that. But nonetheless, lots of controversy and lots of passion to how that goes. And, of course, we have employer sanctions. I don't know if you can get any more of a full plate than those four things.

Cary Pfeffer:
And if you had a sense for among the ones that you just listed there what is likely to make it to some sort of at least final vote, any kind of feel?

Jim Weiers:
they will all get to a final vote. If they get vetoed -- that is on the assumption that they will get out of the senate and house, which I believe that they will. The vast majority believe that there is something that needs to be done. The argument always is, is that the government of the United States and their responsibility. But that is so silly. This is affecting our state and no different than saying a police officer is responsible for your safety so that means I don't lock my door and shut up my windows and shut off the burglar alarm. You have to take precautions. The federal government has a lot on their plate. What is happening with the illegal immigration in this state is mind-boggling. The protests and organized showings are tearing this community apart.

Cary Pfeffer:
And, President Bennett, let's talk a little bit about the radar issue. We are talking about a good amount of money to launch a program like that. There is a system that is used similar to that on the Barry Goldwater range. Explain about that for folks who might not be aware of it.

Ken Bennett:
One of the things that people are looking at and are already being used on some of the borders that border federal lands in the Barry Goldwater range is radar that would sense movement on the ground. They have about a three mile radius so one radar piece can cover about 6-miles. And they can be monitored by individuals either there or hundreds of miles away with the technologies. Basically it is kind of an eyes and ears on the ground at the border and then it would still, however, require a call to local law enforcement personnel near the border to move in. But, they seem to have perfected these to the point where, you know, when you detect a movement then you can zero in with a camera and see if you are seeing a rabbit or a human being or whatever. So, I think technology along with personnel along with all of the issues that Jim mentioned in employer relations and sanctions and all of these things are going to have to be part of a comprehensive package.

Cary Pfeffer:
And do you feel that, indeed, can be accomplished?

Ken Bennett: I do.
A week before the session started, the speaker and I announced that the legislative republican leadership was committed in the range of $100 million in the next year budget, which is a lot of money, but in a nine plus billion dollar budget it is still a relatively small piece. And given the impact that our state is feeling, probably a very appropriate piece. A week later or so in the governor's state of the state address, she threw out the hundred million dollar number as well. So when everybody is talking about the same issue and about the same dollar range, I think there is a good likelihood that something will get done.

Cary Pfeffer:
And the fence idea. Sort of a smart fence and the radar.

Ken Bennett:
There are some that are suggesting that we need to build more fences along the board.

Cary Pfeffer:
Actual physical fence.

Ken Bennett:
A physical fence.

Cary Pfeffer:
Right.

Ken Bennett:
We took a trip down there to look at what is going on and, you know, some of the fences terminate right close to the population bases and I mean it is just a matter of, you know, walking around the end so...

Cary Pfeffer:
Right.

Ken Bennett:
But unless you have a comprehensive solution on a temporary maybe guest worker program and employer sanctions and all kinds of --

Cary Pfeffer:
Addressing the whole.

Ken Bennett:
Until you address the whole thing, many feel that you probably couldn't build a wall high enough or moat high enough or whatever to keep people from coming. All of that has to be part of a comprehensive solution.

Cary Pfeffer:
And your sense of the abilities?

Jim Weiers:
Pretty much the same. The people cried out for something and there are a number of those that say let's wait for the federal government to take on the responsibilities. There is enough responsibility for everybody to share. And as state legislators it falls on us to answer the call what are you going to do. We are going to do something this year. It has been going on too long. We have estimates of 5,000 to 6,000 crossing every single day and people say why is this an issue with Mexico. It is not. It is a border security. And after 9/11 things changed in this country and if you assume that everybody who comes across the border is good and hard working with the best intentions -- they are breaking the law to start with. What about the people that have nothing except harm? That is scary if the border is that porous and you don't have that good of control, anybody can come over. I don't care if it is with chemical bombs or with the intent to blow up a nuclear reactor or create mayhem in the cities or just here to get honest work, you can't ferret out as to who is good and bad because everybody is coming through.

Cary Pfeffer:
On a related issue and one that has been the focus of a lot of discussion obviously, progress on the English language debate?

Ken Bennett:
Progress in the sense that the bill got beyond the governor at least by her allowing it to go into effect without her signature. We thought it, unfortunately, underhanded a bit, I guess, for her to accompany that with a four-page letter talking about all the reasons why that she did not support the bill. I think that is really, you know, to be left and will be left up to the federal judge and within the next few weeks there should be a decision. One person really doesn't have the ultimate decision-making authority. But we are anxious to see what the judge who has been handling this case feels about what we feel was a pretty good plan. And, you know, there are questions about the supplanting issues and how many state dollars and federal dollars and are the dollars enough. We feel that the bill we forwarded addresses the fundamental problem of the lawsuit and that was that the funding system was arbitrary and capricious and instead of just increasing that arbitrary number to a figurative arbitrary number the bill said we will report actual costs and districts will report what the actual costs for ell students are and make up the difference if that is above the base funding, but we want them to use other funding sources that they have to help address the needs for students. If they are getting federal dollars for poverty children and some of those children in poverty are also English language learners, then some portion of that money should be addressing the educational needs of the students as well.

Cary Pfeffer:
And your sense of the timeline? What have you heard as far as what we know on timeline on here?

Jim Weiers: As far as the judge's decision, I have no idea. The bill that we put forth, you know, we have extreme confidence. If the judge sees it that way, I don't know. So many different variables we have to consider as lawmakers. One is to be able to deliver a product at a reasonable cost that is not going to exploit the taxpayers. And if you take the population of ell and the state basic aid and the money that we put in it is over a billion dollars and the 80 million more that we put in we feel it is more than sufficient to do the job. More money does not always create a better product. And it does go to the heart of what the lawsuit was over, arbitrary and capricious. We said this is the cost and you identify them and we will pay for them.

Cary Pfeffer:
Talk about another related topic, all related obviously and this related in every single way. The budget. You're feeling about progress and where we are going in 30 seconds or less.

Jim Weiers:
The budget is an interesting product and does take consensus within a lot of people's minds what they want and what they need and our jobs as the president in the senate is to be able to bring the consensus and work and find out what the governor will accept.

Cary Pfeffer: And your sense you had hopes at the beginning of the session to kind of make this quicker work.

Ken Bennett: I'm still hopeful, Cary. I think it is important for viewers to be reminded that the budget is driven by big chunks that are set in law and move with the state. About 60\% of our state budget goes to education. About 10-20\% in public safety, and another 10-20\% in healthcare and those types of things. Those are the big drivers in a growing state. Those populations are also growing and the budget will be dominated by those issues. But we are also going to make sure that any new money available is spent wisely and if we have growing revenues then maybe some of the revenues can be left with the taxpayers to continue to spur the economy to greater heights.

Cary Pfeffer:
Thank you for being here.

Ken Bennett:
Appreciate it.

Cary Pfeffer:
Suspicious e-mails claiming to come from the IRS are showing up in e-mail boxes around the country. A scam called phishing. In a moment, we will talk more about that and other hot topics regarding your state and federal income tax return. First, a look at the program that more than 70\% of the nation's taxpayers, about 92 million people qualify for this year. File free. Free tax preparation and electronic filing.

Merry Lucero:
You may be among millions of taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $50,000 a year or less and access to the internet who can e-file their federal and state income tax returns for free. Those making above $50,000 pay a small fee to e-file. Click free file on the IRS website and access a list of authorized IRS e-file providers offering free online tax preparation and electronic file. Individuals, businesses, tax professionals, charities, and nonprofits can use this alternative to paper returns. Once you choose a company, answer the simple questions in the tax preparation software and the software does the rest. Have your social security numbers, w-2 forms, and other tax information ready. You can enter your bank account number for faster refunds or to pay your taxes quickly and conveniently online.

Cary Pfeffer:
And here now to talk about your 2005 income tax returns, Bill Brunson with the internal revenue service, and Dan Zemke with the Arizona department of revenue. Welcome to both of you.

Dan Zemke:
Thanks for letting us be here.

Cary Pfeffer:
You bet. This is the time. Prime time for the tax world. And, bill, let's talk a little bit about the changes on the federal side and things that people need to be aware of. Maybe things that weren't necessarily the case last year and you can't assume that one year to the next it is the same.

Bill Brunson:
Two major changes. One deals with the uniform definition of a child. What was, say, the definition in past years has changed slightly so folks are going to use, say, a credit or deduction they need to meet the circumstances and go back to the actual instruction booklet and check that out. And then this year through the end of December -- excuse me, through December 31st, 2007, there is an energy credit for folks that significantly improve their house. The item that they are going to purchase has to be energy efficient and last for a minimum of five years. Could be a hot water heater. Could be a refrigeration unit or ceiling fans or insulation. It wasn't in place before and if they are going to improve their personal primary residence they need to take advantage of the credit.

Cary Pfeffer:
Puts in a much more efficient air conditioning credit.

Bill Brunson:
And that could be worth $500 total for that particular credit. A considerable item to have against your assessed tax.

Cary Pfeffer:
And not only purchases made in 2005, but purchases made through --

Bill Brunson:
Purchases as of 1 January 2006.

Cary Pfeffer: Okay.

Bill Brunson
Through December 31, 2007. A two-year time frame.

Cary Pfeffer:
And, Dan, let's also talk about the state side. Anything that people should be aware of when looking at the paperwork?

Dan Zemke:
In particular, there are few things that the state does differently than the federal government. We do not tax the interest on federal government bonds, for instance. We also for retirees of the federal government or the state of Arizona and its local governments have a $2,500 exclusion from their pension income that the federal government does not. We also do not tax social security income at all.

Cary Pfeffer:
And I was just at a meeting with my tax person and one of the things that seemed to be a new addition this year was not only the tax credit, was it $250 or $300 or something like that, but then also another one that can go to a nonprofit organization of some kind?

Dan Zemke:
There are three tax credits. One, the credit for contributions to public schools which for 2005 was limited to $300 for a married filing jointly. The credit for contributions to a private school tuition organization, which had a limit this year, I believe, of $850. And the third one that you alluded to is contribution to charities who basically specialize in assisting the working poor.

Cary Pfeffer:
Okay.

Dan Zemke:
And that one point for 2005 is $300 also. For 2006 that will be $400.

Cary Pfeffer:
Okay.

Dan Zemke:
And the public school tax credit will also be $400.

Cary Pfeffer:
We also need to be aware of, as we mentioned off the top, that there are scam artists out there, because this is tax season who are wanting to take advantage of taxpayers specifically by giving them faulty e-mails. Talk a little bit about that.

Bill Brunson:
People are receiving unsolicited e-mails and when they click on it, it opens up what seems to be a realistic IRS screen and it says you have either a fall refund coming or perhaps you are under audit and wants from you financial information and personal information. Social security number and bank account and then by going to the secondary screen and providing that information what you are doing is falling victim to identity theft. We will not send you unsolicited e-mail or ask for financial information by e-mail. We will lend you a letter or call you on the phone and might even show up on the doorstep. We are not going to do business that way. It is a tax scam. Stay away from it. Today we released a news release that tells taxpayers if they receive this sort of e-mail, send it to the IRS at a particular location and that this will allow us hopefully to shut down the tax scammers and put them out of business and maybe even put them behind bars.

Cary Pfeffer:
You can play a part in the process. If you get one of these e-mails, pass it right back to the real IRS and you can find that information on irs.gov. Go to that website and they will direct you where to send that.

Bill Brunson:
When you click -- when you go to the home page in the upper right-hand corner there is a search engine, and key in phishing, p-h-i-s-h-i-n-g. That will take you to the specific directions as to how to send that e-mail to the IRS depending upon your software, and there is multiple versions there. A good guidance.

Cary Pfeffer:
And we had the website location up there on the screen to help. Phishing at irs.gov.

Bill Brunson:
And there are other tax scams. We refer to them as the dirty dozen. One is unscrupulous preparers. Choose them wisely. Don't go to one that is going to offer a large refund without looking at your material or one that says they have a special relationship with the IRS, because they don't, or one that says based on the amount I can get back is how much I charge you as a fee. Those are red flags. Most preparers are highly ethical and will willingly sign the return, keep that on file for a number of years and they would be able to help you.

Cary Pfeffer:
That is helpful. And, Dan, do we have in place here, I mean, bill, you know, gets a lot of focus of attention just because, you know, the feds are everywhere. Not how he would probably prefer to say it.

Bill Brunson:
That's true.

Cary Pfeffer:
You are in a situation where you are wanting to make sure that folks who are not sort of getting second shrift of their state returns because there is important details that need to be taken care of.

Dan Zemke:
The state return fortunately for those of Arizona follows the federal return. We start at adjusted gross income and have a different tax rate. A different credit that the federal government doesn't have, but all of the filing deadlines are the same. If you need an extension and you -- excuse me, get a federal extension, we will honor that extension. And I think probably one of the things that affects more taxpayers in Arizona is as far as medical expenses if you itemize deductions we allow 100\%, unlike the limited amount that the federal allows.

Cary Pfeffer:
And the nature of our state made this a place where identity theft and those kinds of things has been a special concern and that becomes a concern for you as well.

Dan Zemke:
Very true. We every year have instances of multiple tax returns being filed using the same social security numbers and different names and we have to sort out to find the correct one and handle it appropriately.

Cary Pfeffer:
And, bill, talk about this filing year any kind of a sense for how we are doing or what the usual pattern is as far as people filing? We are nation of procrastinators.

Bill Brunson:
We are looking at about 135 million taxpayers to file for this year. Of that number, 74 plus million electronically file. In Arizona 2.4 million file. Of that number 1.3 million projected to electronically file. As of Monday, march 27th, we had over 880,000 Arizonans file electronically. Well on our way to the 1.3 million projected number for electronic filed tax returns. And overall we will probably see a slight increase over the 50\% from last year. Things are going good. The last two weeks of the year is when most folks will file the return. 25\% of all returns will come in the last two weeks so we are seeing something that is going to come here very soon.

Cary Pfeffer:
Right around the corner. And for people who sometimes can be afraid of or unfamiliar with the whole e-filing process, what assurances can you provide them for that 50\% that choose not to go that route?

Bill Brunson:
One of the nice things about an electronically filed tax return is it saves the federal government money and saves your tax dollars. Fast and accurate and secure. Within 48 hours after it is transmitted, we let you know we received it and are processing it. The software does the math for you. Can't hardly make a mistake. And secure in the sense if you have a refund coming and choose to have it direct deposited, it can be in your checking and savings account in as little as ten days.

Cary Pfeffer:
And the last word as far as any last minute things people should keep in mind?

Dan Zemke:
Tie into what bill said. The state also has e-file and ties along with feds an offers the same things. In fact, there are some software vendors that allow both federal and state complete free preparation and e-file as well. But they have to go through our website to get to that to get the state part free in addition. So they have to go to azdor.gov. It is fast and accurate.

Cary Pfeffer:
Appreciate your time and information here. Bill, thank you very much. Good to see you as well.

Bill Brunson:
Thank you for having us on.

Cary Pfeffer:
You bet.

Cary Pfeffer:
You can see transcripts of "Horizon" and find out about upcoming topics on our website. Our address is az-pbs.org. Click on "Horizon" and then follow the links and get all of the pertinent information. And we hope that you will be back here and join us. We have a full plate of programs scheduled for the rest of this week. Michael grant will be making his way back to this chair as well. In the meantime, have a great night. I'm Cary Pfeffer.

Tax Time


  • The deadline is approaching to file your 2005 Income Tax Returns. Representatives from the IRS and the State Department of Revenue talk about issues such as IRS Free File, refunds due to people who did not file 2002 returns, the Earned Income Tax Credit and a new Energy Tax Credit for 2005.
Guests:
  • Ken Bennett - -- President , State Senate
  • Jim Weiers - -- Speaker of the State House of Representatives


View Transcript
Cary Pfeffer:
Tonight on "Horizon," rallies held over the past several days protest federal immigration legislation. Meantime, Arizona lawmakers are working on immigration issues at the state capitol. Legislative leaders join us. Tax time is near. An update on e-filing and tax laws and new tax scams to watch out for. Those stories next on "Horizon".

Cary Pfeffer:
Good evening. Welcome to "Horizon." I'm Cary Pfeffer. Tonight I'm filling in for Michael Grant. While immigration and border security issues certain to impact the state are being debated on Capitol Hill in Washington, protesters at our state capitol and around the nation demonstrate their concerns. Arizona lawmakers are working at the legislature on state immigration issues. The budget and English Language Learning program are some of the key issues. And joining us to talk about those issues is President of the State Senate, Ken Bennett; and Speaker of the State House of Representatives, Jim Weiers. Let's talk about immigration. It has been on the minds of people and so much a front-page topic over the last few days certainly. Once again, today there were students that came down to the capitol and spent time. Putting aside the issues of whether they were supposed to be in school or not, we will let the individual administrators -- Senator Bennett, is that a good thing that they are spending time at the capitol and at least aware of the importance of the place?

Ken Bennett:
Obviously you want people to be involved in the political process and aware of what is going on, but it does feel like somebody's figured out that they can skip a little school if they just drag the protests out so... But I think it points to the seriousness of the issue and how critical it is both at the federal and state levels that we get some comprehensive resolution.

Cary Pfeffer:
And along those lines, speaker Weiers, give us a feel for the top two or three issues that you think you and other house members will be trying to wrestle with on the state level when the topic comes up.

Jim Weiers:
I think the first issue, the issue at hand, is illegal immigration illegal? Yeah, it is. You have those that say let's ignore it and not do anything about it, and others that say let's do something about it. That is where the debate and controversy starts, let's do something about it. Ironically, the protests that you saw last week we have legislation working its way through the system that would create a felony status for somebody here illegally. Appropriation bills for radar being placed on the border. English as the official language. Who could object to that. But nonetheless, lots of controversy and lots of passion to how that goes. And, of course, we have employer sanctions. I don't know if you can get any more of a full plate than those four things.

Cary Pfeffer:
And if you had a sense for among the ones that you just listed there what is likely to make it to some sort of at least final vote, any kind of feel?

Jim Weiers:
they will all get to a final vote. If they get vetoed -- that is on the assumption that they will get out of the senate and house, which I believe that they will. The vast majority believe that there is something that needs to be done. The argument always is, is that the government of the United States and their responsibility. But that is so silly. This is affecting our state and no different than saying a police officer is responsible for your safety so that means I don't lock my door and shut up my windows and shut off the burglar alarm. You have to take precautions. The federal government has a lot on their plate. What is happening with the illegal immigration in this state is mind-boggling. The protests and organized showings are tearing this community apart.

Cary Pfeffer:
And, President Bennett, let's talk a little bit about the radar issue. We are talking about a good amount of money to launch a program like that. There is a system that is used similar to that on the Barry Goldwater range. Explain about that for folks who might not be aware of it.

Ken Bennett:
One of the things that people are looking at and are already being used on some of the borders that border federal lands in the Barry Goldwater range is radar that would sense movement on the ground. They have about a three mile radius so one radar piece can cover about 6-miles. And they can be monitored by individuals either there or hundreds of miles away with the technologies. Basically it is kind of an eyes and ears on the ground at the border and then it would still, however, require a call to local law enforcement personnel near the border to move in. But, they seem to have perfected these to the point where, you know, when you detect a movement then you can zero in with a camera and see if you are seeing a rabbit or a human being or whatever. So, I think technology along with personnel along with all of the issues that Jim mentioned in employer relations and sanctions and all of these things are going to have to be part of a comprehensive package.

Cary Pfeffer:
And do you feel that, indeed, can be accomplished?

Ken Bennett: I do.
A week before the session started, the speaker and I announced that the legislative republican leadership was committed in the range of $100 million in the next year budget, which is a lot of money, but in a nine plus billion dollar budget it is still a relatively small piece. And given the impact that our state is feeling, probably a very appropriate piece. A week later or so in the governor's state of the state address, she threw out the hundred million dollar number as well. So when everybody is talking about the same issue and about the same dollar range, I think there is a good likelihood that something will get done.

Cary Pfeffer:
And the fence idea. Sort of a smart fence and the radar.

Ken Bennett:
There are some that are suggesting that we need to build more fences along the board.

Cary Pfeffer:
Actual physical fence.

Ken Bennett:
A physical fence.

Cary Pfeffer:
Right.

Ken Bennett:
We took a trip down there to look at what is going on and, you know, some of the fences terminate right close to the population bases and I mean it is just a matter of, you know, walking around the end so...

Cary Pfeffer:
Right.

Ken Bennett:
But unless you have a comprehensive solution on a temporary maybe guest worker program and employer sanctions and all kinds of --

Cary Pfeffer:
Addressing the whole.

Ken Bennett:
Until you address the whole thing, many feel that you probably couldn't build a wall high enough or moat high enough or whatever to keep people from coming. All of that has to be part of a comprehensive solution.

Cary Pfeffer:
And your sense of the abilities?

Jim Weiers:
Pretty much the same. The people cried out for something and there are a number of those that say let's wait for the federal government to take on the responsibilities. There is enough responsibility for everybody to share. And as state legislators it falls on us to answer the call what are you going to do. We are going to do something this year. It has been going on too long. We have estimates of 5,000 to 6,000 crossing every single day and people say why is this an issue with Mexico. It is not. It is a border security. And after 9/11 things changed in this country and if you assume that everybody who comes across the border is good and hard working with the best intentions -- they are breaking the law to start with. What about the people that have nothing except harm? That is scary if the border is that porous and you don't have that good of control, anybody can come over. I don't care if it is with chemical bombs or with the intent to blow up a nuclear reactor or create mayhem in the cities or just here to get honest work, you can't ferret out as to who is good and bad because everybody is coming through.

Cary Pfeffer:
On a related issue and one that has been the focus of a lot of discussion obviously, progress on the English language debate?

Ken Bennett:
Progress in the sense that the bill got beyond the governor at least by her allowing it to go into effect without her signature. We thought it, unfortunately, underhanded a bit, I guess, for her to accompany that with a four-page letter talking about all the reasons why that she did not support the bill. I think that is really, you know, to be left and will be left up to the federal judge and within the next few weeks there should be a decision. One person really doesn't have the ultimate decision-making authority. But we are anxious to see what the judge who has been handling this case feels about what we feel was a pretty good plan. And, you know, there are questions about the supplanting issues and how many state dollars and federal dollars and are the dollars enough. We feel that the bill we forwarded addresses the fundamental problem of the lawsuit and that was that the funding system was arbitrary and capricious and instead of just increasing that arbitrary number to a figurative arbitrary number the bill said we will report actual costs and districts will report what the actual costs for ell students are and make up the difference if that is above the base funding, but we want them to use other funding sources that they have to help address the needs for students. If they are getting federal dollars for poverty children and some of those children in poverty are also English language learners, then some portion of that money should be addressing the educational needs of the students as well.

Cary Pfeffer:
And your sense of the timeline? What have you heard as far as what we know on timeline on here?

Jim Weiers: As far as the judge's decision, I have no idea. The bill that we put forth, you know, we have extreme confidence. If the judge sees it that way, I don't know. So many different variables we have to consider as lawmakers. One is to be able to deliver a product at a reasonable cost that is not going to exploit the taxpayers. And if you take the population of ell and the state basic aid and the money that we put in it is over a billion dollars and the 80 million more that we put in we feel it is more than sufficient to do the job. More money does not always create a better product. And it does go to the heart of what the lawsuit was over, arbitrary and capricious. We said this is the cost and you identify them and we will pay for them.

Cary Pfeffer:
Talk about another related topic, all related obviously and this related in every single way. The budget. You're feeling about progress and where we are going in 30 seconds or less.

Jim Weiers:
The budget is an interesting product and does take consensus within a lot of people's minds what they want and what they need and our jobs as the president in the senate is to be able to bring the consensus and work and find out what the governor will accept.

Cary Pfeffer: And your sense you had hopes at the beginning of the session to kind of make this quicker work.

Ken Bennett: I'm still hopeful, Cary. I think it is important for viewers to be reminded that the budget is driven by big chunks that are set in law and move with the state. About 60\% of our state budget goes to education. About 10-20\% in public safety, and another 10-20\% in healthcare and those types of things. Those are the big drivers in a growing state. Those populations are also growing and the budget will be dominated by those issues. But we are also going to make sure that any new money available is spent wisely and if we have growing revenues then maybe some of the revenues can be left with the taxpayers to continue to spur the economy to greater heights.

Cary Pfeffer:
Thank you for being here.

Ken Bennett:
Appreciate it.

Cary Pfeffer:
Suspicious e-mails claiming to come from the IRS are showing up in e-mail boxes around the country. A scam called phishing. In a moment, we will talk more about that and other hot topics regarding your state and federal income tax return. First, a look at the program that more than 70\% of the nation's taxpayers, about 92 million people qualify for this year. File free. Free tax preparation and electronic filing.

Merry Lucero:
You may be among millions of taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $50,000 a year or less and access to the internet who can e-file their federal and state income tax returns for free. Those making above $50,000 pay a small fee to e-file. Click free file on the IRS website and access a list of authorized IRS e-file providers offering free online tax preparation and electronic file. Individuals, businesses, tax professionals, charities, and nonprofits can use this alternative to paper returns. Once you choose a company, answer the simple questions in the tax preparation software and the software does the rest. Have your social security numbers, w-2 forms, and other tax information ready. You can enter your bank account number for faster refunds or to pay your taxes quickly and conveniently online.

Cary Pfeffer:
And here now to talk about your 2005 income tax returns, Bill Brunson with the internal revenue service, and Dan Zemke with the Arizona department of revenue. Welcome to both of you.

Dan Zemke:
Thanks for letting us be here.

Cary Pfeffer:
You bet. This is the time. Prime time for the tax world. And, bill, let's talk a little bit about the changes on the federal side and things that people need to be aware of. Maybe things that weren't necessarily the case last year and you can't assume that one year to the next it is the same.

Bill Brunson:
Two major changes. One deals with the uniform definition of a child. What was, say, the definition in past years has changed slightly so folks are going to use, say, a credit or deduction they need to meet the circumstances and go back to the actual instruction booklet and check that out. And then this year through the end of December -- excuse me, through December 31st, 2007, there is an energy credit for folks that significantly improve their house. The item that they are going to purchase has to be energy efficient and last for a minimum of five years. Could be a hot water heater. Could be a refrigeration unit or ceiling fans or insulation. It wasn't in place before and if they are going to improve their personal primary residence they need to take advantage of the credit.

Cary Pfeffer:
Puts in a much more efficient air conditioning credit.

Bill Brunson:
And that could be worth $500 total for that particular credit. A considerable item to have against your assessed tax.

Cary Pfeffer:
And not only purchases made in 2005, but purchases made through --

Bill Brunson:
Purchases as of 1 January 2006.

Cary Pfeffer: Okay.

Bill Brunson
Through December 31, 2007. A two-year time frame.

Cary Pfeffer:
And, Dan, let's also talk about the state side. Anything that people should be aware of when looking at the paperwork?

Dan Zemke:
In particular, there are few things that the state does differently than the federal government. We do not tax the interest on federal government bonds, for instance. We also for retirees of the federal government or the state of Arizona and its local governments have a $2,500 exclusion from their pension income that the federal government does not. We also do not tax social security income at all.

Cary Pfeffer:
And I was just at a meeting with my tax person and one of the things that seemed to be a new addition this year was not only the tax credit, was it $250 or $300 or something like that, but then also another one that can go to a nonprofit organization of some kind?

Dan Zemke:
There are three tax credits. One, the credit for contributions to public schools which for 2005 was limited to $300 for a married filing jointly. The credit for contributions to a private school tuition organization, which had a limit this year, I believe, of $850. And the third one that you alluded to is contribution to charities who basically specialize in assisting the working poor.

Cary Pfeffer:
Okay.

Dan Zemke:
And that one point for 2005 is $300 also. For 2006 that will be $400.

Cary Pfeffer:
Okay.

Dan Zemke:
And the public school tax credit will also be $400.

Cary Pfeffer:
We also need to be aware of, as we mentioned off the top, that there are scam artists out there, because this is tax season who are wanting to take advantage of taxpayers specifically by giving them faulty e-mails. Talk a little bit about that.

Bill Brunson:
People are receiving unsolicited e-mails and when they click on it, it opens up what seems to be a realistic IRS screen and it says you have either a fall refund coming or perhaps you are under audit and wants from you financial information and personal information. Social security number and bank account and then by going to the secondary screen and providing that information what you are doing is falling victim to identity theft. We will not send you unsolicited e-mail or ask for financial information by e-mail. We will lend you a letter or call you on the phone and might even show up on the doorstep. We are not going to do business that way. It is a tax scam. Stay away from it. Today we released a news release that tells taxpayers if they receive this sort of e-mail, send it to the IRS at a particular location and that this will allow us hopefully to shut down the tax scammers and put them out of business and maybe even put them behind bars.

Cary Pfeffer:
You can play a part in the process. If you get one of these e-mails, pass it right back to the real IRS and you can find that information on irs.gov. Go to that website and they will direct you where to send that.

Bill Brunson:
When you click -- when you go to the home page in the upper right-hand corner there is a search engine, and key in phishing, p-h-i-s-h-i-n-g. That will take you to the specific directions as to how to send that e-mail to the IRS depending upon your software, and there is multiple versions there. A good guidance.

Cary Pfeffer:
And we had the website location up there on the screen to help. Phishing at irs.gov.

Bill Brunson:
And there are other tax scams. We refer to them as the dirty dozen. One is unscrupulous preparers. Choose them wisely. Don't go to one that is going to offer a large refund without looking at your material or one that says they have a special relationship with the IRS, because they don't, or one that says based on the amount I can get back is how much I charge you as a fee. Those are red flags. Most preparers are highly ethical and will willingly sign the return, keep that on file for a number of years and they would be able to help you.

Cary Pfeffer:
That is helpful. And, Dan, do we have in place here, I mean, bill, you know, gets a lot of focus of attention just because, you know, the feds are everywhere. Not how he would probably prefer to say it.

Bill Brunson:
That's true.

Cary Pfeffer:
You are in a situation where you are wanting to make sure that folks who are not sort of getting second shrift of their state returns because there is important details that need to be taken care of.

Dan Zemke:
The state return fortunately for those of Arizona follows the federal return. We start at adjusted gross income and have a different tax rate. A different credit that the federal government doesn't have, but all of the filing deadlines are the same. If you need an extension and you -- excuse me, get a federal extension, we will honor that extension. And I think probably one of the things that affects more taxpayers in Arizona is as far as medical expenses if you itemize deductions we allow 100\%, unlike the limited amount that the federal allows.

Cary Pfeffer:
And the nature of our state made this a place where identity theft and those kinds of things has been a special concern and that becomes a concern for you as well.

Dan Zemke:
Very true. We every year have instances of multiple tax returns being filed using the same social security numbers and different names and we have to sort out to find the correct one and handle it appropriately.

Cary Pfeffer:
And, bill, talk about this filing year any kind of a sense for how we are doing or what the usual pattern is as far as people filing? We are nation of procrastinators.

Bill Brunson:
We are looking at about 135 million taxpayers to file for this year. Of that number, 74 plus million electronically file. In Arizona 2.4 million file. Of that number 1.3 million projected to electronically file. As of Monday, march 27th, we had over 880,000 Arizonans file electronically. Well on our way to the 1.3 million projected number for electronic filed tax returns. And overall we will probably see a slight increase over the 50\% from last year. Things are going good. The last two weeks of the year is when most folks will file the return. 25\% of all returns will come in the last two weeks so we are seeing something that is going to come here very soon.

Cary Pfeffer:
Right around the corner. And for people who sometimes can be afraid of or unfamiliar with the whole e-filing process, what assurances can you provide them for that 50\% that choose not to go that route?

Bill Brunson:
One of the nice things about an electronically filed tax return is it saves the federal government money and saves your tax dollars. Fast and accurate and secure. Within 48 hours after it is transmitted, we let you know we received it and are processing it. The software does the math for you. Can't hardly make a mistake. And secure in the sense if you have a refund coming and choose to have it direct deposited, it can be in your checking and savings account in as little as ten days.

Cary Pfeffer:
And the last word as far as any last minute things people should keep in mind?

Dan Zemke:
Tie into what bill said. The state also has e-file and ties along with feds an offers the same things. In fact, there are some software vendors that allow both federal and state complete free preparation and e-file as well. But they have to go through our website to get to that to get the state part free in addition. So they have to go to azdor.gov. It is fast and accurate.

Cary Pfeffer:
Appreciate your time and information here. Bill, thank you very much. Good to see you as well.

Bill Brunson:
Thank you for having us on.

Cary Pfeffer:
You bet.

Cary Pfeffer:
You can see transcripts of "Horizon" and find out about upcoming topics on our website. Our address is az-pbs.org. Click on "Horizon" and then follow the links and get all of the pertinent information. And we hope that you will be back here and join us. We have a full plate of programs scheduled for the rest of this week. Michael grant will be making his way back to this chair as well. In the meantime, have a great night. I'm Cary Pfeffer.

What's on?

Content Partner:

  About KAET Contact Support Legal Follow Us  
  About Eight
Mission/Impact
History
Site Map
Pressroom
Contact Us
Sign up for e-news
Pledge to Eight
Donate Monthly
Volunteer
Other ways to support
FCC Public Files
Privacy Policy
Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
Google+
Pinterest
 

Need help accessing? Contact disabilityaccess@asu.edu

Eight is a member-supported service of Arizona State University    Copyright Arizona Board of Regents