Lawmakers Set Stage for Tax Reform Debate After April Recess

by Michael W. Blitstein, CPA 

Democrats and Republicans have begun a two week recess with lawmakers returning home to promote very different visions of tax reform. Before recessing, the House passed a Republican budget blueprint calling for individual and business rate cuts, the Ways and Means Committee approved a GOP small business tax package, and the Senate prepared to debate the so-called “Buffett Rule.” Congress also approved a short-term extension of Federal transportation excise taxes and funding.

The small employer incentive in the Senate bill appears to be a good and targeted expansion of the employer credit in the HIRE Act, Adam Lambert, CPA, managing director, Employment Tax Services, Grant Thornton, LLP, New York, told CCH: “The proposed credit has less limitations and hurdles for small businesses to jump.”

GOP budget

The House voted to approve the GOP budget blueprint on March 29th. The GOP budget proposes to cut the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, reduce the individual tax rates to 10 and 25 percent and eliminate unspecified tax preferences.

Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, recently said that he is developing a bipartisan legislative proposal to overhaul corporate taxation and reduce the U.S. corporate tax rate to 25 percent. Portman said his proposal would be revenue-neutral by reducing tax preferences.

Buffett Rule

Democratic leaders have indicated that the Senate will vote on the Buffett Rule after the two week recess. The vote is expected to be on April 16th on the Paying a Fair Share Act, which would subject taxpayers earning over $2 million to a 30 percent minimum federal tax rate. The tax would be phased-in for taxpayers with incomes between $1 million and $2 million.

 Small Businesses

On March 28th, the Ways and Means Committee approved the Small Business Tax Cut Act along party lines. The GOP bill would allow a deduction for 20 percent of qualified domestic business income of the taxpayer for the tax year, or taxable income for the tax year, whichever is less. However, a taxpayer’s deduction for any tax year could not exceed 50 percent of certain W-2 wages of the qualified small business.

In the Senate, the Democratic bill would provide a 10 percent income tax credit on new payroll (through either hiring or increased wages) added in 2012. The maximum increase in eligible wages would be capped at $5 million per employer and the amount of the credit would be capped at $500,000. The bill would also extend 100 percent bonus depreciation through the end of 2012.

Transportation

Before recessing, the House and Senate approved an extension of Federal transportation excise taxes and funding, which President Obama signed on March 30th. The extension was necessary because Congress failed to pass a comprehensive transportation bill before the expiration of transportation tax authority and funding.

The Senate-passed transportation bill has become bogged down in the House. Some House members are opposed to its non-transportation tax provisions

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