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Washington Watch - January 7, 2009

Bush Signs Bill To Ease Pension Funding Requirements, IRA Withdrawal Rules
President Bush recently signed legislation that will ease pension-funding rules for companies and give retirees a reprieve from required withdrawals from their tax-advantaged investment accounts.

The bill (HR 7327) was a compromise reached late in the second lame-duck session of Congress. The measure was cleared by voice vote in the Senate a day after the House also passed the bill by voice vote. President Bush signed the bill despite concerns about added pressure on the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

“Our concerns with the legislation remain, but we do believe that in this current economic environment and current economic circumstances, that the benefits of the legislation outweighed our objections,” said Deputy White House Press Secretary Tony Fratto.

The bill addresses corporate concerns that fully funding defined-benefit plans as required by the 2006 pension law overhaul would be too great a burden in light of current economic conditions. Companies have warned that compliance with funding requirements would prevent hiring and investing, and could even force layoffs.

Echoing a proposal from President-elect Barack Obama, the bill also imposes a moratorium for 2009 on the required minimum annual distributions from tax-deferred retirement accounts of individuals 70-½ years old or older.

For more information on the legislation, click here.

IRS Announcements: January Tax Talk Today Focuses on Filing Season

The Internal Revenue Service’s next Tax Talk Today program, “Getting Ready for Filing Season 2009 -- Individual and Business,” will be Tuesday, Jan. 13, at 2 p.m. This 100-minute program will give tax preparers a head start on the 2009 filing season.

The extended program will discuss updates to tax forms, the latest tax law changes and IRS processing issues to assist tax preparers. Panelists will offer tips on how to avoid common errors that can cost preparers and their clients time and money.

Tax Talk Today is a webcast aimed at educating tax and payroll professionals on the most current and complex tax issues. Tax professionals are encouraged to watch and submit questions. To access the webcast at no charge, viewers can register online at taxtalktoday.com.

Subscribers can view live webcasts as well as archived programs, listen to audio podcasts or read show transcripts. Subscribers also can order audio and video recordings.

Senate Small Business Committee To Be Led By Sens. Landrieu, Snowe

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) will be leading the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship in the 111th Congress, becoming the first all-female pair to lead a full committee in either chamber.

Sens. Landrieu and Snowe will head the committee as the chairwomen and ranking Republican, respectively.

“As Small Business Committee Chairman, I traveled to Louisiana with Mary and I saw firsthand her passion for helping small business owners in her state and across the country,” said Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) of Sen. Landrieu in a statement. “After Louisiana was walloped by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Senator Landrieu put Washington on notice that she wouldn't accept a second-rate federal response and she fought for aid to rebuild her state’s economy. Small business owners should be proud to have Mary Landrieu at the helm of this Committee in the Senate.”

Sen. Landrieu was appointed to fill Sen. Kerry’s place as chair of the Senate Small Business Committee, as Sen. Kerry will preside as leader of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, formerly the post of Vice President-elect Joe Biden.

Sens. Landrieu and Snowe said they will put women- and minority-owned businesses at the front of the committee’s agenda for next year. Both senators have also urged President-elect Obama to re-elevate the Small Business Administration chief to Cabinet-level.

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