TAX CUTS SAVED BUSH, CHENEY $110K: President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney saved a combined $110,182 in taxes last year under the income tax cuts passed by their administration, according to an analysis of the 2004 tax returns released by the White House.President and Mrs. Bush reported total income of $784,219 on their tax return and paid $207,307 in income tax - $28,846 (12 percent) less than they would have under the pre-Bush tax law, according to a report by Citizens for Tax Justice, a Washington-based research and advocacy organization.

Figures released by the White House showed that President and Mrs. Bush reported taxable income of $672,788 for tax year 2004, including the president's salary and investment income from the trusts in which their assets are held. The Bushes contributed $77,785 to churches and charitable organizations, including Evergreen Chapel at Camp David, St. John's Church, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army World Service Office, AmeriCares, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the federal government's Combined Federal Campaign.

According to the White House, Vice President and Mrs. Cheney reported total income of $2,173,892 and paid $393,518 - which CTJ said is more than $80,000 less than under the pre-Bush tax law. The Cheneys reported taxable income of $1,328,678, including his $203,000 government salary and the payment of $194,852 in deferred compensation from Halliburton Co., as well as Mrs. Cheney's income from the American Enterprise Institute and compensation from Reader's Digest, on whose board of directors she served until her retirement in 2003. The couple donated $303,354 to charity in 2004, primarily from Mrs. Cheney's book royalties from Simon & Schuster and the exercise of stock options dedicated to charity.

GAO SAYS IRS NEEDS TO FIX WEAKNESSES: The Internal Revenue Service needs to remedy serious weaknesses over taxpayer and Bank Secrecy Act data that leave its systems vulnerable, according to the Government Accountability Office. In a report released in mid-April, the GAO said that the IRS has made progress in correcting or mitigating previously reported information security weaknesses and in implementing controls over key financial and tax processing systems located at one of its critical data processing facilities, fixing 32 of the 53 weaknesses that the GAO reported as unresolved at the time of its prior review in 2002.

However, the GAO noted that, in addition to the remaining 21 weaknesses that haven't been corrected, 39 newly identified information security control weaknesses impair the IRS's ability to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of its sensitive financial and taxpayer data and Bank Secrecy Act data.

For example, the GAO said that the agency hasn't implemented effective electronic access controls over its mainframe computing environment to logically separate its taxpayer data from Bank Secrecy Act data - two types of data with different security requirements. In addition, the IRS hasn't effectively implemented certain other information security controls relating to physical security, segregation of duties, and service continuity at the facility.

"Collectively, these weaknesses increase the risk that sensitive taxpayer and Bank Secrecy Act data will be inadequately protected from unauthorized disclosure, modification, use or destruction," the GAO said. "Moreover, weaknesses in service continuity and business resumption plans heighten the risk that assets will be inadequately protected and controlled to ensure the continuity of operations when unexpected interruptions occur."

BUSH BILL EXEMPTS FEMA PAYMENTS: President Bush has signed into law H.R. 1134, exempting qualified disaster mitigation payments from tax.

These are payments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program, and the Flood Mitigation Assistance Program. Taxpayers who included these payments in income on prior-year returns may file amended returns to take advantage of the exclusion.

"It's important to note that the law is retroactive, and therefore applies to disaster mitigation grants that taxpayers may have received before the bill was passed. People who have paid tax on these grants may file an amended tax return to get a refund," noted IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson.

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