Congress ended 2016 by passing a few targeted tax bills, and lawmakers focused on the incoming Trump administration and tax reform in 2017. President Donald Trump campaigned on tax cuts for individuals and businesses. Already, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are preparing for what is expected to be spirited debate over tax cuts in 2017.
In December, President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act and the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act. Under the 21st Century Cures Act, eligible small employers may adopt qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangements (QSEHRAs) to reimburse employees for the cost of premiums for individual or family health coverage without being subject to group health plan requirements. The new law also extends transition relief for small employers. Without the new law, small employers ran the risk of a costly excise tax. The Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act will refund money that was improperly withheld for tax purposes from severance payments to certain veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. Both bills enjoyed bipartisan support in the House and Senate. Unlike past years, Congress did not take up the so-called tax extenders in December. The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act) extended or made permanent many extenders but left out some incentives for energy efficiency and production, along with a few incentives for individuals. These remaining extenders could be taken up in 2017 as part of tax reform.
On the campaign trail, President Donald Trump called for reducing the tax rates on individuals, lowering the corporate tax rate, repealing the federal estate tax, and creating new incentives for families. President Trump also called for eliminating some unspecified tax preferences and taxing carried interest as ordinary income.
In June 2016, House Republicans put forth a tax reform package that has many features similar to President Trump’s proposals. The House GOP plan calls for individual and business rate cuts. However, there are differences. One difference is the House GOP’s so-called border adjustability; another difference is the GOP’s elimination of the IRS Oversight Board. These and other provisions are certain to generate debate in the early part of 2017.
Any tax reform package will need not only to pass the House, but also the Senate before reaching the White House. While Republicans have a majority in the Senate, the chamber’s rules generally require a super-majority to pass tax bills. Republicans could use a process known as reconciliation to pass a tax reform bill with a simple majority. Any move to use reconciliation will also likely spark debate among lawmakers.
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