September is always a busy month on Capitol Hill. The federal government's fiscal year begins each Oct. 1 and for the last several years, representatives and senators have pushed that deadline to the limit fighting over which programs to fund and which to cut.
This year's financial debate is complicated by additional sequester threats. The automatic, across-the-board cuts to federal programs kicked in March 1. More cuts will go into place Oct. 1 unless the House and Senate come up with funding proposals to counter the impending cuts.
In its latest report to the president, issued Aug. 20, the Office of Management and Budget warns:
To date, no 2014 appropriations bills have been enacted into law. Unless the discretionary caps are restored to the levels agreed to in ATRA [American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 enacted Jan. 2] and reflected in the Senate budget resolution and its appropriations bill, this report estimates that, if enacted, the actions by the House of Representatives would result in a sequestration of $47.9 billion in the defense category, while the actions by the Senate would result in a sequestration of $54.1 billion in the defense category and a sequestration of $34.3 billion in the non-defense category.
Debt ceiling doomsday deadline
Then there's the debt ceiling. As U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has repeatedly told members of Congress, extending the country's borrowing authority does not increase government spending; it simply allows the Treasury to pay for expenditures that Congress previously approved.
Uncle Sam technically hit his $16.699 trillion debt limit May 19.
Lew's staff has been implementing a variety of "extraordinary measures" -- the federal version of robbing Peter to pay Paul -- so that the government has money to meet its obligations.
That bag of debt ceiling postponement measures, however, is projected to hit empty Oct. 18. On that date, according to Lew's latest letter to congressional leaders, the federal government will only have enough tax revenue to pay about 68 percent of its bills for the rest of the month "and it won't be able to borrow or scrounge up more money to make up the difference."
Congress might finally be taking the impending fiscal deadlines seriously. And one Republican leader might have come up with something that will get everyone to focus.
Speaking on the House floor Thursday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., warned that representatives' planned recess for the week of Sept. 23 might be canceled so that lawmakers can work on a government funding bill. Even more scary, Cantor said that the House might even have to work that last weekend of the month.
Working overtime? Horrors!
Estimated tax deadline
While Capitol Hill is finally facing up (we hope) to this year's drop-dead fiscal deadlines, those of us in the real world also have a key September date to remember.
If you pay estimated taxes, your third payment for the 2013 tax year is due Monday, Sept. 16. The technical deadline is Sept. 15, but because that falls on Sunday, the effective due date is the following business day.
You have a couple of ways to meet the deadline.
You can make an electronic payment, either by transferring your tax amount directly from a bank account to the U.S. Treasury or charging the payment to a credit or debit card by the due date. I just set up my Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, or EFTPS, to clear next Monday.
If you still pay estimated taxes by sending in a paper Form 1040-ES, you simply need to make sure the envelope holding the form and your check or money order is postmarked by Sept. 16.
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Veteran contributing editor Kay Bell is the author of the book "The Truth About Paying Fewer Taxes" and a co-author of the e-book "Future Millionaires' Guidebook."