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SRQ Daily Dec 23, 2017

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"Over the last several years, the IRS has become embroiled in controversies."

- U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota

[Under The Hood]  Wishing for Attainable Housing
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

A holiday wish list for Southwest Florida surely deserves on the very top a place to stay for those of all income levels. But it’s going to take more than magical thinking and a workshop of elves.

The subject drove a meeting I recently convened with Kevin Cooper and Jacki Dezelski, the respective presidents of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and Manatee County Chamber of Commerce. You can read the entire conversation in the January issue of SRQ Magazine. I can tell you the lack of attainable housing vexes both business leaders. “Businesses are ready to hire,” Cooper says, “and the workforce that would otherwise want to fill those jobs can't find an affordable place to live.”

But one thing clear covering this issue for years, neither the free market nor public sector can solve this issue alone. The reason is that the strength of either force lies in the polar opposites of the market, and the great void in today’s market lays in the vacuous middle. Government leaders may bicker and argue about shelter size and location, but there’s plenty being done to address the needs of the Gulf Coast’s poorest families, and progress, while slow-coming, has taken place in addressing the needs of the chronically homeless as well. But government’s never been great at helping out the middle class (see the recent tax vote in Washington for an example). It’s easiest to build from the bottom of the economy or to inject some fluidity into the top of the market.

The private sector, meanwhile, feels the incentive of profits, and when it comes to selling real estate in paradise, that means maximizing every acre. In our amenity-rich downtowns, you can find luxury condominium buildings rising from the ground now. And yes, we have some nice apartments coming online, but its always easier to get developers investing in land they can quickly sell at a markup than it is convincing them to become long-term landlords catering to entry-level workers within any field. And while you would hope the mere presence of a growing number of young professionals would force a greater market share of reasonably priced accommodations to appear, there always seems to be a new generation of freshly retired folks from out-of-state willing to expend a career’s worth of wealth for their turn in a dream home.

What can turn the tide? Dezelski holds hope in the action of Manatee County leaders to create building incentives for mixed-use development on US 41 between Bradenton and the Sarasota-Manatee county line. Of course, that again requires the private sector to play along with the public. “I'm going to be very interested,” Dezelski says, “to see if that attracts the type of attention from developers to put in some sort of a catalytic project that shows other would-be investors or other would-be developers that, hey, this type of an incentive works and creates the right environment for us to bring on attainable housing.”

I’ll be interested as well, and so will every employer who wants to be near the center of economic action on the Gulf Coast but has to rely on employee bases who live 30 miles from the most viable city cores. Even this, though, won’t bring a huge number of people into an area where they play, work and, most elusively, live in a downtown. This puts people outside walking distance, and there’s still not a popular public transit option. But it’s a first step, and it would be great if it leads somewhere good down the line.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ Media Group. 

[From Vern Buchanan]  Modernize the IRS
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan

Last month, President Trump named an interim commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service as the search continues for someone to lead the powerful agency.

As the head of the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee, which oversees the IRS, I want to make sure hardworking Americans are able to navigate today’s complex and outdated tax code. With the House, the Senate, and the White House closer than ever before to comprehensive tax reform that makes the tax code simpler and fairer for all Americans, I am committed to ensuring the new commissioner protects taxpayers’ rights, improves taxpayer service, and brings the IRS into the 21st century.

Over the last several years, the IRS has become embroiled in controversies. It needs to focus on administering the tax code in a fair and impartial manner for the vast majority of Americans who make good faith efforts to voluntarily comply with a complex and outdated system of rules.

The new commissioner has a significant challenge ahead, but the new commissioner will be setting the agency up for success if he or she prioritizes protecting the rights of taxpayers, making the IRS more accessible to average Americans and modernizing the ailing information technology infrastructure.

First, the IRS has a duty to protect taxpayer rights. While approximately 98 percent of the money collected by the U.S. Treasury comes in voluntarily, the commissioner should focus on creating and fostering a dispute resolution and appeals process where the taxpayer can feel heard and where the taxpayer’s rights are fully protected. That includes the right to be informed and the right to challenge the IRS’s position and be heard. Under current appeals practices, that’s not the case. The taxpayer does not have full access to the file being reviewed by the appeals officer. The new commissioner can change that process—giving taxpayers the due process they deserve.

Second, the agency must focus on being more accessible and providing more assistance to taxpayers. We must open the door for taxpayers to access support from the IRS. To do this, the agency must administer the tax code in a fair and efficient manner. This starts with focusing on clear and easy access for the everyday user. When taxpayers struggle to pay their taxes because of how complicated the system is, they are less willing to voluntarily comply with the process.

Taxpayers should have better access to filing support. Electronic forms would be another easy way for the IRS to improve taxpayers’ filing experiences. The IRS should create an Internet platform for Form 1099 filings; it should look for ways to boost electronic W-2 filings by employers; and it should encourage e-filing for exempt organizations. By improving taxpayer access to these types of support services, the IRS can become a more taxpayer-centered agency.

Lastly, the IRS must modernize its information technology and procurement practices. The agency must better protect Americans’ data. Modernizing means strengthening electronic record retention and enhancing the collection of delinquent taxes. With a streamlined IT system, the IRS would be able to protect Americans’ identities and prevent identify theft before it occurs. The Information Sharing and Assessment Center needs to be maintained and prioritized. The agency must create a single point of contact for victims of identity theft. Identity Protection PINs need to be enhanced. By prioritizing IT, the IRS will not only be able to better prevent and address identity theft and fraud. It will also be able to improve the taxpayer experience.

Concentrating on taxpayers’ access, prioritizing taxpayers’ rights, and modernizing infrastructure to protect taxpayers are the necessary stepping stones for an IRS in the 21st century. The commissioner must administer the tax code so that it is fair to taxpayers. From this important role, the new commissioner will have the ability to change the culture to one that is fair and balanced for taxpayers.

Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, is chairman of the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee. 

[Best Of SRQ Local]  Cast Your Vote For Best Local Builder!

“Josh and his team work harder than anyone to achieve the highest quality product as quickly as possible and at the lowest possible cost.” — Jimmy Thornton  Josh Wynne Construction paved over competitors last year as Best Local Builder. Thanks to a signature awesome work ethic, the custom builder makes a splash in this category, where the competition was fierce and the gaps between finalists were small. Murray Homes earned first finalist, followed by second finalist Nautilus Homes and third finalist Neal Communities. Who will build their way to the top this year? Cast your vote in the 2018 Best of SRQ Local Competition now!  

Vote Here!

[SCOOP]  High Flying Holidays

This holiday season, celebrate circus style at Sailor Circus The High Flying Holidays, a show for the whole family, December 27 through December 30.This all new performance will have audiences on the edge of their seats as over 100 students ages 8-18 flip, fly and soar through the air performing a wide variety of acts. Families will be awestruck watching acts including aerial silks, unicycle, juggling, high wire, flying trapeze and much more, all in the iconic Sailor Circus Arena. Sailor Circus, known as “The Greatest ‘Little’ Show” on Earth, is the longest-running youth circus in the country. The Sailor Circus Academy, not only teaches students over 30 disciplines of circus arts, it also uses the circus arts to teach life skills turning ordinary students into confident leaders. Shows are at 2PM and 7PM daily. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for children 12 and under. 

Photo Credit: Cliff Roles  

Circus Arts Conservatory

[SCOOP]  Goodwill Hosts Training for Homeless Veteran Service Providers

In collaboration with Goodwill Manasota's Veterans Service Program, the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) held a special two-day training event featuring Bret Anderson of h2 Communication, LLC. Anderson presented his curriculum on employment placement and retention for hard-to-serve veterans. This training, which took place at Goodwill’s Corporate Campus in Bradenton, was offered at no cost through the U.S. Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS) in order to help providers improve service delivery and better collaborate with community partners. This intensive, hands-on workshop was attended by representatives from several Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP) grantees – including Goodwill Manasota – from throughout Florida as well as professionals from local partner organizations including Turning Points, Jewish Family & Children's Service, the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness, and Veterans Affairs. This class offered the opportunity for participants to learn about each other, discuss strategies for collaboration and, ultimately, improve services for veterans.  

Goodwill Manasota

[KUDOS]  2000 Elementary School Students Attend Free Performance of The Secret Garden

Nearly 2000 elementary school students were able to see a free performance of The Secret Garden with tickets underwritten by The Sarasota Ballet made possible by The Education Foundation of Sarasota County and Harry Leopold and Audrey Robbins. The grant award of $7,500 from Education Foundation was essential to provide field trip transportation enabling students to be the first to experience Will Tuckett’s full-length family friendly ballet The Secret Garden at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts before it opened the 2017-2018 Season. Tuckett’s unique ability to tell complex stories through his choreography has been recognized throughout the world, most recently when he received London’s West End Olivier Award for his production of The Wind in the Willows. With The Secret Garden, Tuckett’s distinctive theatricality comes through on stage, bringing to life this beautiful story of love, nature and family. 

Sarasota Ballet

[KUDOS]  SMH Receives 5 Star Rating

Report cards are out for the nation’s hospitals, and Sarasota Memorial Hospital received the highest 5-star rating for the fourth consecutive rating period. Less than 10 percent of U.S. hospitals earned the federal government’s highest marks in 2017, according to the American Hospital Association. The updated results are slated to be posted this month on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Hospital Compare website. Although the most recent scores are not yet available to the public, hospitals received their individual report cards from CMS, and Sarasota Memorial retained its title as the only hospital in Florida to consistently earn a 5-star ratings in all rating periods since the star program’s inception in 2016. “Our continuous five-star rating truly sets us apart from other hospitals, and is the result of our physicians’ and staff’s expertise and enduring commitment to provide the highest level of care to our community,” said Sarasota Memorial CEO David Verinder.  

Sarasota Memorial Healthcare

[SCOOP ]  Asolo Finds Their Perfect Pooch For Shakespeare In Love

Asolo Rep hosted auditions last month for the role of “Spot” in SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE and dozens of adorable canines turned out for the fun. Fripon de Terra-Blue “Sting" is a Pyrenean Shepherd, a herding breed native to the Pyrenees mountains beat out the competition for the coveted role. A competitor in the sport of Agility, Sting has earned numerous titles in the American Kennel Club and has consistently ranked as one of the fastest dogs in his breed by “Breed Power 10”. Most recently, Sting was the cover dog for Pet Pages 2017. Sting lives in Sarasota with his owner/trainer/handler, Barbara Dumbaugh. Be sure to catch him on stage January 10-March 2018 at the Asolo Theatre.  

Asolo Repertory Theatre

SRQ Media Group

SRQ DAILY is produced by SRQ | The Magazine and edited by Senior Editor Jacob Ogles. Note: The views and opinions expressed in the Saturday Perspectives Edition and in the Letters department of SRQ DAILY are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by SRQ Media. For rates on SRQ DAILY banner advertising, please contact Ashley Ryan at 941-365-7702 x211 or at her contact page. To unsubscribe, please click here.

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