Tax reform is hard work, despite what President Trump said during the House’s attempt to repeal Obamacare. It requires filling in a lot of details and anticipating opposition from business and interest groups that don’t like the idea of winners and losers. Despite talking about tax reform as a centerpiece of their agenda since 2010, the GOP really hasn’t done much of the work to build support within their caucus and the public at large for a real plan.
Tax Analysts Blog
Jeremy Scott, editor in chief of Tax Analysts' commentary, is an expert on federal issues and corporate tax policy. Scott leads the company's commentary, analysis, and opinion publishing. He contributes weekly to the Tax Analysts blog and writes periodically on federal tax issues. Before joining Tax Analysts, Scott was an associate at Silverman & Associates Chartered, where he practiced in construction law, bankruptcy, Miller Act issues, estate planning, debtor and creditor’s rights law, choice of entity, the creation of corporate and limited liability entities, and general corporate law. Scott received his BA from the University of Virginia, his JD from the William & Mary School of Law, and his LLM in taxation from Georgetown University Law Center.
After failing spectacularly on healthcare reform, the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress will now turn their attention to taxes. President Trump is stumping for a tax cut as the signature achievement of his first term. But forces inside the White House have a different idea in mind. Chief Strategist Steve Bannon is reportedly pushing for a 44 percent top tax rate on incomes over $5 million.
French President Emmanuel Macron has radically reshaped the politics of his country in many ways. He crushed the Socialist Party candidate in the first round of the presidential elections, going on to easily defeat the National Front’s Marine Le Pen in the second round. And his new party secured an outright majority in Parliament, relegating the Socialists to a small minority, while the right-leaning Republican Party (the old Gaullists) saw their representation nearly slashed in half. But on economic and tax policy, Macron is far less of a revolutionary.
The great supply-side experiment is over. After years of cratering revenues and hard choices about spending cuts, the Republican-controlled Legislature has pulled the plug on Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s 2012 tax program. Both the Kansas House and Senate overrode Brownback’s veto June 6 by wide majorities. Already commentators are rushing to declare all tax cuts obsolete as a result of Kansas’s experience, but that would be a gross overreaction to what actually happened.
The Congressional Budget Office released its updated analysis of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), giving Democrats new ammunition to attack the bill and making some Republicans even more nervous about the consequences of healthcare reform in the 2018 midterm elections. But given what the CBO said about the bill, it’s clear that very little has changed since the first report in March.
For most of the year, Republicans have said that passing healthcare reform and presidential involvement in the process could make tax reform much easier. In the last two weeks, President Trump released a tax plan and the House passed a repeal-and-replace bill by a narrow margin. Unfortunately, it’s not all that clear that either of these events will actually help the GOP accomplish anything on taxes.
As the House Republican blueprint's destination-based cash flow tax comes under increasing attack from retailers and opponents, the GOP and other would-be tax reformers are looking at other options. And it probably shouldn't be shocking that a federal VAT is among the choices to potentially replace the corporate tax in any major tax reform effort.
The alternative minimum tax is a quirky feature of the tax code that dates from 1969. It came about because the Treasury secretary informed Congress that 155 very wealthy taxpayers owed no income tax in 1966. Lawmakers then created a special tax regime that excluded most deductions and hit capital gains more heavily. From those 155 taxpayers, the AMT has grown to affect more than 5 million taxpayers a year.
The Republican alternative to Obamacare is finally here. House Republicans released their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, dubbing it the American Health Care Act (AHA). While not quite Obamacare lite, the AHA retains several aspects of the ACA, including two that were widely expected to be repealed: the tax on so-called Cadillac insurance plans and the codification of the economic substance doctrine. The latter was the subject of a recent misinformation campaign by opponents of repeal.
Since the 1970s, Republicans have successfully turned the United States into an antitax country. Voters and the public are wary of any new levy, largely believe that any tax cut is by definition good, and don't trust the government to wisely spend what taxes it does collect. Nowhere has this been more successful than in the transformation of the estate tax into the so-called death tax. The estate tax now faces near certain extinction even though almost no one pays it, and very few even face the prospect of paying it.
President Trump is in favor of the House's destination-based cash flow tax. Or at least that's what The New York Times made readers think after the president spoke to Republicans in Philadelphia. But the truth is much more complicated than that, and Trump has yet to mention the House plan since he told The Wall Street Journal that he found it "too complicated".
The House Republican blueprint has received surprisingly positive reviews from many economists and tax observers. In one bold stroke, the destination-based cash flow tax could eliminate the aspects of the tax code that encourage businesses to locate jobs overseas. It could be a powerful engine for domestic job creation and economic growth. All that being said, however, it's time for House Speaker Paul Ryan and Ways and Means Chair Kevin Brady to accept that the tax will almost certainly never become law.
The new year is here, and 2017 has the potential to dramatically alter the tax policy climate in both the United States and Europe. Most obviously, the incoming Trump administration and its Republican allies in Congress would love to remake the U.S. tax code by repealing Obamacare (which has many important tax components) and passing a tax reform package that lowers rates and alters how business income is treated. In Europe, the populist wave personified by Brexit and Donald Trump could sweep away governments in France (most likely), Italy, and Germany (least likely).
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi bet his political future on a somewhat convoluted constitutional referendum that was designed to make it much easier for his center-left coalition to govern without majority support from voters. He bet big, and he lost big, because Italians rejected the constitutional changes proposed by the prime minister, who promptly announced his resignation. The outcome is both a major victory for democracy and a sharp setback for the EU and possibly the eurozone.
President-elect Donald Trump's 100-day agenda is starting to take shape. While a lot is still not known (including a number of key Cabinet appointees), Vice President-elect Mike Pence laid out four priorities over the weekend. "Repealing Obamacare will be the first priority in a session that will be characterized by tax reform, rebuilding the military, infrastructure, ending illegal immigration, and that’s where we’re focused," Pence told Face the Nation.
Before the elections, pollsters were confident that the United States faced another four years of divided government. Virtually every prognosticator in the country predicted that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton would win the presidency, but face at least a GOP-controlled House. They were all wrong. Far from being pushed into a media-predicted civil war, Republicans won a complete victory on November 8, with Donald Trump winning the White House while Republicans maintained control over both chambers of Congress. This opens the door to at least two years of frenzied legislative activity, particularly on tax reform.
Although there isn't much of a consensus on anything in Washington, there is a lot of chatter over increasing infrastructure spending. Hillary Clinton wants to reinvest in the nation's transportation network. Donald Trump wants to spend even more than Clinton. And lawmakers all want to find a way to replenish the Highway Trust Fund that doesn't involve a gas tax hike.
The section 385 regulations on the distinction between debt and equity are now final, and despite what tax advisers and Congress have been saying for months, the world did not come to an end. In fact, the barrage of negative comments and nasty letters from lawmakers profoundly affected Treasury, and the once-sweeping regulation package was significantly carved back. In a few years, when the U.S. tax base is even further eroded, the government will almost certainly rue this guidance as a profound missed opportunity.
By now virtually everyone is aware that Donald Trump claimed a $916 million tax loss on his 1995 returns. We know this because The New York Times obtained a partial copy of Trump's state returns and published a story speculating that Trump has been using this loss to avoid paying any income taxes for years (18 years is the number being thrown about). The Trump campaign is going to have to do a lot of damage control to mitigate the political effect of the Times' revelations, but a real estate developer claiming huge losses isn't all that remarkable from a tax perspective.
Hillary Clinton would like voters to believe she's the candidate most likely to help working Americans. After a surprisingly difficult primary fight with a socialist senator from Vermont, Clinton has adopted a lot of populist economic rhetoric. On her campaign website, she says she has an eight-point plan to help the middle class, with the first point saying, "Hillary is proposing middle-class tax breaks to help families cope with the rising cost of everyday expenses." However, Clinton actually hasn't ever released her plan to cut middle-income taxes (or really any taxes), instead relying on evasive answers and proposals for small-change tax expenditures.