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Tax Reform Discussions Continue in Congress

August 17, 2017

James A. Benjamin , CPA, MST, J.D.
Manager

House and Senate lawmakers have started their August recess, leaving pending tax legislation for after Labor Day. In past years, September has been a busy month for tax legislation and this year is likely to be the same. Before leaving Capitol Hill, lawmakers took actions in several areas related to tax reform.

House Action

In the House, the Budget Committee approved along party lines a fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget resolution. The resolution calls for:

  • Simplifying the tax code to promote fairness for American families and businesses
  • Lowering tax rates for individuals and consolidating the seven tax brackets into fewer brackets
  • Repealing the alternative minimum tax (AMT)
  • Reducing the corporate tax rate

The budget resolution does not set out specific tax changes or include legislative language. Rather, according to GOP leaders in the House, the budget resolution will serve as the vehicle for tax legislation at a future date. House Budget Committee Chair Diane Black, R-Tennessee, predicted that tax reform will be "deficit neutral" and will "reduce tax rates and simplify the tax code." Budget Committee Ranking Member John Yarmuth, D-Kentucky, said that the resolution "adopts the worst extremes of the President's proposals by cutting taxes for millionaires and billionaires at the expense of everyone else."

Administration Discussions

Since May, White House and Treasury Department officials have been meeting with business leaders, representatives of business and taxpayer groups, and other stakeholders in "listening sessions" about changes to the tax code. In July, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, after meeting with representatives from the agriculture sector, predicted that tax reform "would be done this year." Mnuchin said that "tax reform is one of our most important areas of focus.”

Bipartisan Bills

Meanwhile, some stand-alone tax bills have either passed committee or have been introduced. In July, the House Ways and Means Committee approved bipartisan legislation to overhaul the IRS's forfeiture authority. The Clyde-Hirsch-Sowers RESPECT Bill (HR 1843) was sponsored by Ways and Means Tax Policy Subcommittee Chair Peter Roskam, R-Illinois, and Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley, D-New York. The RESPECT Act generally prohibits the IRS from seizing funds relating to a structuring transaction unless the property to be seized is from an illegal source.

In the Senate, the Senate Finance Committee may take up a bipartisan bill to encourage retirement savings by enhancing growth of S corporations owned by employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs). The Promotion and Expansion of Private Employee Ownership Bill was introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas. The lawmakers explained that their bill would amend the tax code to eliminate barriers that business owners face in establishing or expanding S corporation ESOPs. Similar bipartisan legislation is pending in the House.

Other pending tax bills include:

  • HR 3068, which would enhance the research tax credit for domestic manufacturers.
  • HR 3126, which would provide a tax credit to individuals for legal expenses paid to establish guardianship of a family member with disabilities.
  • HR 3138, which would generally treat Native American governments in the same manner as state governments for certain federal tax purposes.

Treasury Tax Position

The Treasury Department's top tax professional is the assistant secretary for tax policy. That position has been vacant since January 20. In July, the Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved President Trump’s nomination of David Kautter to serve as Treasury assistant secretary for tax policy. "This position is particularly important in the current environment as the administration is engaging with Congress on comprehensive tax reform," SFC Chair Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said. Ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, said "it’s my hope that Mr. Kautter can help to bring Democrats and Republicans together." Kautter has worked at several major accounting firms over the past 30 years. Please contact James at jbenjamin@blumshapiro.com if you have any questions about tax legislation.

Please contact James at jbenjamin@blumshapiro.com if you have any questions about tax legislation.

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Disclaimer: Any written tax content, comments, or advice contained in this article is limited to the matters specifically set forth herein. Such content, comments, or advice may be based on tax statues, regulations, and administrative and judicial interpretations thereof and we have no obligation to update any content, comments or advice for retroactive or prospective changes to such authorities. This communication is not intended to address the potential application of penalties and interest, for which the taxpayer is responsible, that may be imposed for non-compliance with tax law.

 

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