As the new administration and Congress get to work, tax reform is high on the agenda. Although legislative language has not been yet released, statements from tax writers in Congress shed some light on various proposals.
House Ways and Means Chair Kevin Brady, R-Texas, has predicted that tax reform will lower the tax rates for all businesses. “We are proposing a corporate rate of 20 percent and for small businesses, a top rate of no more than 25 percent,” Brady said in February. As for the timeline of tax reform, Brady said that tax reform legislation will be unveiled in the “coming months,” but “repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) comes first.”
Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has said that the Senate will work through its own tax reform process. “No one should expect the Senate to simply take up and pass a House tax reform bill,” Hatch said in February. Hatch added that Senate tax writers are in the early stages of drafting a tax reform proposal. Hatch did not provide details of the proposal but said that House and Senate Republicans generally agree on basic principles, such as lower tax rates for individuals and businesses.
One area of potential friction is the House GOP’s so-called “border adjustability” proposal. Hatch has questioned if the border adjustment proposal, essentially taxing imports but not U.S. exports, is “in line with international trade obligations” and if “adjustments would need to be made to prevent shifting a tax burden onto specific industries.”
Democrats, although in agreement the tax code is in need of reform, have been critical of Republicans’ proposed solutions as appearing to focus on tax cuts for the wealthy. “They (Republicans) are for trickle-down economics…giving tax breaks to the wealthy, it trickles down and if somebody gets a job, that’s great, if they don’t, so be it,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in February. “You don’t receive economic security by tossing the rich even more tax breaks,” she added.
Affordable Care Act
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) included a host of tax-related provisions. The ACA created the net investment income (NII) tax, the additional Medicare Tax, an excise tax on certain medical devices, and more. The ACA also imposes shared responsibility requirements on individuals and employers (known as the individual and employer mandates). Although President Trump and Republicans in Congress have called for repeal and replacement of the ACA, it is not clear at this time if repeal includes the ACA’s tax provisions. In February, Hatch said that all of the ACA’s taxes “need to go.”
The timeline for Congressional action on the ACA is expected to be known in March. GOP leaders in Congress have said that they will unveil an ACA repeal and replacement measure in March.
Pelosi said in February that Democrats have still not seen a repeal and replacement plan for the ACA. “They’re supposed to have their plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act. We have not seen hide nor hair,” Pelosi said. According to Pelosi, the GOP’s chosen route of reforming the healthcare law is a difficult endeavor “You have to know how to legislate,” she said.
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