World
IRS delays new rules for Dark Money groups
The agency has pushed back indefinitely a hearing on new regulations for social welfare nonprofits that spend money on politics
 
After intense criticism from both ends of the political spectrum, the Internal Revenue Service has delayed indefinitely proposed rules that would have imposed new limits on social welfare nonprofits, which have pumped hundreds of millions of dollars from anonymous donors into recent elections.
 
The agency said yesterday it would postpone a hearing on the proposal it released in November defining more clearly what constitutes political activity for such groups, and would revise the plan to reflect some of the more than 150,000 comments it triggered.
Officials put no timeline on the process, disappointing those who had hoped the new regulations might kick in before this year's mid-term elections.
 
"I think it's unfortunate that new rules will be delayed even further and that we're going through another election cycle" without them, said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel with the Campaign Legal Center.
 
Others called the delay a prudent step that would give the IRS an opportunity to get a crucial change right.
 
"They're not going to put out some slapdash rule just to check it off their list," said John Pomeranz, a Washington lawyer who works with nonprofits that spend money on politics. He doesn’t expect the agency to finish the rules any time soon. “I think we’ll be lucky if they’re in place for the 2016 election.”
 
Social welfare nonprofits have poured money into politics since the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in 2010, which allowed corporations, unions and nonprofits to spend unlimited money on elections.
 
Social welfare nonprofits spent more than $256 million in the 2012 cycle alone, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Campaign finance watchdogs have viewed their rise with concern, fearing the influence of so-called "dark" money from secret donors, and had called for more oversight from the IRS.
 
Under IRS regulations, the groups can spend some of their resources on politics, but must devote themselves mostly to social welfare to keep their nonprofit status. But the rules defining what is and isn't politics are murky.
 
Late last year, the IRS moved to clarify the issue, but its proposal came under fire from both the left and the right.
 
Conservatives complained that the rules would stifle political speech. The American Civil Liberties Union chafed at a provision in the proposed rules that would prevent nonprofits from backing ads that even mentioned politicians in the two months before a general election.
 
"We have no doubt that the Service is acting with the best of intentions, but the proposed rule threatens to discourage or sterilize an enormous amount of political discourse in America," the ACLU said in its written response to the proposal.
 
The plan was also criticized for impeding nonpartisan election work such as voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote efforts.
 
The IRS, still facing fallout from accusations that it singled out the applications of conservative nonprofits for special scrutiny in the run-up to the 2012 election, decided it would make revisions.
 
"Given the diversity of views expressed and the volume of substantive input, we have concluded that it would be more efficient and useful to hold a public hearing after we publish the revised proposed regulation," the agency said in statement.
 
Courtesy: ProPublica.org

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Post-retirement Money-life Planning
To help you spend your sunset years in sunshine, Moneylife Foundation held a seminar to guide seniors on ensuring a financially safe and secure retirement
 
Turning 60 is no longer the big milestone it used to be. Life-spans have increased and people are living fitter and more fulfilling lives, long into their 80s. However, this means keeping pace with technology, dealing with galloping costs and poor geriatric care. Living on one’s savings for 25 years or so also needs careful financial planning and investment. On 14th May, Moneylife Foundation’s trustees, Sucheta Dalal and Debashis Basu, conducted a special workshop on how to plan for a safe and financially smart retirement. 
 
Ms Dalal said that the key to safe investment lies in taking care to avoid losses, especially online fraudsters. She said senior citizens were more susceptible to financial fraud and illustrated this with several real-life examples in India. The talk focused on provisions that seniors ought to know, such as the importance of nominations, the Special Marriage Act, 1954, the Married Women’s Property (MWP) Act and Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007. 
 
Debashis Basu guided the audience on calculating their financial needs more realistically and about how to meet the objective of earning a safe and steady return that beats inflation through a smart mix of asset classes including debt, mutual funds and equity. He also explained how ‘reverse mortgage’ allows seniors to draw value from their biggest asset—their home. Mr Basu ended the session by answering a series of questions on investment planning and closed with the message: “The earlier you start saving, the larger corpus you get at retirement.”

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‘Good election does not necessarily lead to good democracy’
A packed audience enjoyed a fascinating debate on the process of elections following the Mumbai launch of Dr SY Quraishi’s book, organised by Moneylife Foundation
 
Dr SY Quraishi’s book An Undocumented Wonder - the Making of the Great Indian Election was launched at the hands of Deepak Parekh, chairman of the Housing Development Finance Corporation in Mumbai on 9th May. There was a lively panel discussion with Kabir Bedi, television and film actor and social activist, and the Aam Aadmi Party candidate from Mumbai North-East constituency, Medha Patkar. 
 
“The book is my modest attempt to unravel the myth and mystery behind the great election machine, the men and women who run the world’s largest democracy and the citizens who participate in it with great gusto,” said Dr Quraishi at the event organised by Moneylife Foundation. 
 
Mr Parekh said, “While India waits with bated breath for the results of one of its most significant elections, one must take time to read this book to understand the nuts and bolts of what it takes to put together such a challenging exercise of conducting elections. At the time when the sole focus of the media is on the magic number of 272, there is a tendency to ignore those who have quietly worked behind the scenes. The book provides an insight into what happens backstage. As the book aptly says ‘the Election Commission is the most self-effacing organisation in India’. How little do we know about it?” Mr Parekh has been voting for the past four decades but failed to exercise his right this time because his name was missing from the election rolls. 
 
In fact, missing names, the role of money power and several other issues were raised by Medha Patkar, the renowned social activist who contested the elections on an Aam Aadmi Party ticket. Her questions prompted Mr Quraishi to say that “a good election does not necessarily lead to good democracy.” He agreed with the The Economist’s contention that India was a ‘flawed democracy’ and the EC could not change that. 
 
Kabir Bedi, spoke about the need to appreciate the nature of our democracy, instead of which we tend to take our rights and our ability to vote for granted. He said, “About 73 countries, or 42% of the countries across the world, have no elections.”
 
The panel discussion was followed by a lively interaction with the audience. Mr Quraishi noted and responded to all the queries. He also cited data provided by the EC in Maharashtra which showed that claims about missing voters were hugely exaggerated.
 

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