Jan 25, 2023 - Podcasts

New antitrust scrutiny in Washington

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday held a much-anticipated hearing Live Nation, which owns Ticketmaster. Also yesterday, the Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google’s parent company Alphabet for its alleged monopoly on digital ads.

  • Plus, what to know about filing your taxes this year.
  • And, a historic Oscars season for Asian actors.

Guests: Axios' Ashley Gold, Emily Peck and Hope King.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alexandra Botti, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Naomi Shavin, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

We’ve made it to Wednesday, it’s January 25th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Today: what to know about filing your taxes this year. Plus, a historic Oscars season for Asian actors. But first, new antitrust scrutiny in Washington – that’s today’s One Big Thing.

New antitrust scrutiny in Washington

NIALA: I was one of the millions of people disappointed by the disastrous Ticketmaster presale process for Taylor Swift back in November, and that process brought attention to the company's dominance of ticket sales.

Well, yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a much anticipated hearing on Live Nation, which owns Ticketmaster. Also, yesterday, the Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google's parent company Alphabet for its alleged monopoly on digital ads.

Here to break down what's going on in the antitrust world is Axios’ Tech and Policy Reporter Ashley Gold. Hi Ashley.

ASHLEY GOLD: Hi. Thanks for having me.

NIALA: So let's start with Ticketmaster. Can you help us zoom out and tell us what is the bigger issue at play here?

ASHLEY: Absolutely. The bigger issue at play here is that there are not many players in the whole ticketing industry and Ticketmaster is the biggest one. And because they have so much power and they have these exclusive partnerships with venues. They have unchecked power on how tickets are bought and sold for these events.

NIALA: So how does what's happening with Google compare?

ASHLEY: Well with Ticketmaster, everybody has had the frustrating experience of wanting to get tickets to a Taylor Swift concert, a sporting event, and you know, not being able to get in, having bots buy up tickets and resell that frustrating feeling when tickets are marked up with excessive fees.

With Google, it's a little different. We're talking about digital advertising. We all see digital advertisements every day on our phones, on the web when we search on Instagram, but it's a little less clear how those ads all get served up to us. Hint, it's mostly because Google is doing it. There are advertisers and competitors that think it's not fair that Google controls this whole ecosystem and finally the Justice Department took action.

NIALA: So you wrote that right now is a time of unprecedented antitrust scrutiny. What do you mean by that?

ASHLEY: We're at a time where the federal government is concerned about consolidation across all sorts of markets. It's not just tech or ticketing. It can be farming, airlines, anything else. There's this really sort of a fever pitch of a concern that we've let businesses get too big, we've let businesses acquire other businesses at too rapid a clip, and that there's no competition anymore and that consumers suffer in that we have higher prices and worse experiences because of it. And this is actually something that Democrats and Republicans agree on.

NIALA: So what are you watching for next?

ASHLEY: I'm watching for what the Senate is going to do after the Ticketmaster hearing. There was sort of a lot of talk of telling the Justice Department to look back into the original agreement it allowed when Ticketmaster and Live Nation merged. Maybe that needs to be reevaluated. Maybe they need to be broken up altogether. And on Google, I'm watching for next steps, but similar to the Microsoft Justice Department case and other pending Google cases at the Justice Department, it's a very slow process.

NIALA: Ashley Gold is a Washington-based tech and policy reporter for us at Axios. Thanks, Ashley.

ASHLEY: Thank you!

NIALA: In a moment: how this year’s tax season could look different.


What to know about filing your taxes this year

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo.

Tax Season is here and Axios’ Markets Correspondent Emily Peck has been covering what's different this year and what you need to know, including how new changes could affect your bottom line. Hey Emily.


NIALA: Last year, taxpayers pocketed high tax returns on average. Do we expect that will be also true this year?

EMILY: Niala. No. No, we don't. So last year the average tax refund was about $3,000 and that was a big increase from the previous year, and a lot of that was coming from pandemic era tax out, basically. The child tax credit, the child independent care credit, both were beefed up and parents especially took home fatter refunds or they got money during the year. It was kind of a bonanza that's all coming to an end. So, the IRS has been warning people, really for a while, that refunds are gonna be smaller this year.

NIALA: The child tax credit and the child independent care credit, will that be the biggest change?

EMILY: Yeah. Other things are like the deduction for charitable donations that they let people take even when they didn't itemize their taxes, that's going away. And of note would be if you bought an electric vehicle in 2022, you can get kind of a big tax credit for that $7,500. But depending on when you bought your car, you may or may not qualify. So, if you purchased your car on or after August 16th, it has to have been assembled in North America to qualify for the credit. See, we are in the weeds now, Niala, but these are important weeds. There's a lot to parse.

NIALA: In previous years, there have been headlines talking about understaffing at the IRS and delays that could cause for individuals waiting to file tax returns. Has any of that been resolved?

EMILY: Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act that passed this year, the IRS got an injection of funds and was able to hire more workers. And meanwhile, some of the issues of the past few years were pandemic induced, around backlogs, especially, you know, workers couldn't come to work, they got sick. All the kinds of issues that we've been inundated with over the past few years, and some of that is now easing for the IRS. So not only will they have new people, but the backlog is shrinking. So hopefully they'll be more responsive to taxpayers who call this year than in previous years.

NIALA: So what should taxpayers expect schedule wise this year in terms of filing?

EMILY: So everyone knows April 15th as the due date, but this year the due date is April 18th because of the weekend and there's this holiday in D.C. called Emancipation Day. Some people living in Alabama, California, or Georgia, they have until May 15th to file, that's for storm victims. What else to know? Don't file until you have all your forms. Check the IRS's site, it's actually pretty good. Hold off on making plans for your refund since you don't know what your refund is quite yet. Looking at you Niala.

NIALA: Emily Peck is the co-author of the Axios Markets newsletter. Thanks Emily.

EMILY: Thank you.

The affects of mass shooting

NIALA: The mass shootings in California this week have again thrust us into this all-too-familiar cycle of mourning, anger and fear. That’s why I wanted to ask you: does fear of a mass shooting event affect your life? Do you think about it before going to school - to your place of worship - out to a club or before you attend a cultural celebration? Has it changed your behavior? Please share your thoughts in a voice memo, that you can text to me at 202-918-4893. And we will be playing them later this week.

A historic Oscars season for Asian actors

NIALA: In the midst of this difficult week there was a little bit of good news for the AAPI community – a historic Oscars nominations announcement yesterday. Axios’ Hope King has more – hey Hope.

HOPE KING: Hey there.

NIALA: How many actors of Asian descent were nominated this year?

HOPE: A total of four, in the leading categories of best actress and best supporting actress, as well as best supporting actor.

NIALA: Historically, the Oscars best actress category has been one of the least diverse awards. Michelle Yeoh from “Everything Everywhere All at Once” has been nominated, and she toldT the New York Times, she's over the moon, but pointed out there's been 95 years of Oscars and many amazing actresses from Asia that have come before her.

What does this nomination mean for the academy that's been fighting the #OscarsSoWhite label for many years at this point?

HOPE: You have to remember that they are basing their nominations off of the slate of work that is being produced every year. If there are no films that are already showcasing talents from different backgrounds, then they are really at a loss of people to nominate. So yes, it's important that these nominating organizations are getting more diverse. But I think it's more important that we have a better pipeline overall from story selection, and scripts to producers, and casting directors and even the marketing of films to really generate the hype that films like “Everything Everywhere All at Once” really needs.

NIALA: For people who haven't seen this, why do you think this film is getting so much buzz?

HOPE: This film is about all the what if’s in your life, and I think that the film itself and, in its name as well, speaks to the feeling that many of us have at this moment, which is that there is so much going on and that feeling of being overwhelmed is really weighing on so many of us. The film attempts to get at the quote on quote solution of that by connecting it to things that are near and dear to our hearts. And I think that's part of the reason why this film has resonated so widely with so many people.

NIALA: Axios’ Hope King. Thanks, Hope.

HOPE: Thank you.

NIALA: That’s it for us today. I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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