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Lawmakers continue tax reform debate and discussions


Andrew Presti

Lawmakers continue tax reform debate and discussions

Lawmakers from both parties spent much of June debating and discussing tax reform, but without giving many details of what a comprehensive tax reform package could look like before year-end. At the same time, several bipartisan tax bills have been introduced in Congress, which could see their way to passage.

Tax reform

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., predicted that tax reform would be accomplished in 2017. “Transformational tax reform can be done, and we are moving forward,” Ryan said in June. We need to get this done in 2017. We cannot let this once-in-a-generation moment slip by.” Last year, House Republicans unveiled their “Better Way Blueprint,” which sets for principles for tax reform, including lower individual tax rates, a reduced corporate tax rate, and a border adjustment tax, among other measures.

“Republicans have been afraid to expose their Blueprint to scrutiny,” Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said. “The Republican Blueprint is both the wrong way for tax policy and the wrong way to legislate tax reform,” Doggett said.

In the Senate, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee (SFC), Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, asked stakeholders for input on tax reform. Hatch requested recommendations on individual, business and international tax reform. “After years of committee hearings, public statements, working groups, and conceptual exercises, Congress is poised to make significant steps toward comprehensive tax reform,” Hatch said. “As we work to achieve those goals, it is essential that Congress has the best possible advice and insight from experts and stakeholders,” he added.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, is ranking member of the SFC and urged lawmakers to take a bipartisan approach to tax reform. “The only way to pass lasting, job-creating tax reform that’s more than an economic sugar-high is for it to be bipartisan,” Wyden said. “Tax reform takes a lot of careful consideration to write a bipartisan tax reform bill, and I know because I’ve written two of them.”

Small business

The Senate Small Business Committee explored tax reform at a hearing in June. “Tax compliance costs are 67 percent higher for small businesses,” Committee Chair James Risch, R-Idaho, said. Ranking member Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said that “small businesses spend 2.5-billion hours complying with IRS rules.”

Mark Mazur, former Treasury assistant secretary for tax policy, was one of the experts who testified before the committee. Mazur said that small businesses generally have a larger per-unit cost of tax compliance than larger businesses. “One particular area that adds to the complexity of complying with the tax code is accrual accounting,” he said.

Other tax legislation

In June, the House passed HR 1551, a bipartisan bill. The legislation generally modifies the tax credit for advanced nuclear power facilities.

A number of bipartisan stand-alone tax bills have been introduced in Congress recently. They include:

  • The Invent and Manufacture in America Bill, a bipartisan bill that would enhance the research tax credit. Generally, the bill would increase the value of the credit by up to 25 percent for qualified research activities.
  • The Graduate Student Savings Bill, introduced by a group of Senate Democrats and Republicans. The bill would generally allow funds from a graduate student’s stipend or fellowship to be deposited into an individual retirement account (IRA).
  • The Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act is another bipartisan bill. The measure generally would enhance the adoption tax credit.
  • Another bipartisan proposal would treat bicycle sharing systems as mass transit facilities for purposes of qualified transportation fringe benefits.

Additionally, a group of House Democrats and Republicans wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in June. The bipartisan group of lawmakers asked Mnuchin to preserve the state and local sales tax deduction in any tax reform plan.

If you have any questions about tax reform, please contact our office.