On November 19, 2021, HR 5376, the 2,476-page bill, commonly known as the Build Back Better Act, was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 220-213.
The House’s vote on HR 5376 was held after the Congressional Budget Office released its cost estimates for the proposed legislation. It estimates HR 5376 will cost almost $1.7 trillion and add $367 billion to the federal deficit over 10 years.
HR 5376 started out with robust changes to our tax laws, including large increases in the corporate, individual, trust and estate income tax rates, significant increases in the capital gains tax rates, taxation of unrealized gains of the ultra-wealthy, a huge reduction in the unified credit, a tax surcharge on high income individuals, trusts and estates, expansion of the application of the net investment income tax, elimination of gift and death transfer discounts, and additional limitations on the application of the qualified business income deduction.
To the cheer of most U.S. taxpayers, HR 5376, as passed by the House, is a dwarf, in terms of the tax provisions, compared to its original form. As tax legislation, at least in its current state, it is much ado about nothing.
However, U.S. taxpayers should not get too joyful about the legislation in its current form. It will likely be substantially altered by the Senate, regaining many of its original provisions (with or without modification). In fact, Skopos Labs reports that the bill, as passed by the House, has a 10 percent chance of being in enacted into law.
HR 5376, at its heart, provides funding, establishes new programs and otherwise modifies current provisions of the law aimed at enhancing a broad array of programs, including education, childcare, healthcare and the environmental protections.
While it may not be worth spending too much time focusing on HR 5376, as its tax provisions will be drastically altered by the Senate, it is worth briefly noting what is in the bill and what may be missing.
As I previously reported, the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) was touted as providing emergency assistance (i.e., a lifeline) to restaurants and other businesses ordered to shut their doors (e.g., dental offices, bars, hair salons, fitness clubs, yoga studios, shopping malls and movie theatres). The owners of these businesses thought the availability of a forgivable loan equal to two-and-one-half times their monthly payroll costs could be exactly what the doctor ordered. The loan, if forgiven, could keep these business afloat and allow them to retain their trained and skilled workforces once they were allowed to reopen. Unfortunately, that hypothesis is severely flawed.
Under the PPP, in order for a borrower to be eligible for forgiveness, the loan proceeds must be used for payroll costs (75 percent), and rent and utilities (25 percent) within eight weeks following the date of the loan. If a borrower’s business is shut down due to an executive order of the governor for most, if not all, of the eight-week period, how can the borrower use the loan proceeds that indisputably are needed to reopen and maintain the workforce? That circumstance was clearly not contemplated by Congress when it passed the CARES Act.
On April 11, 2017, we discussed what constitutes Tax Reform. On April 24, 2017, we explored the process by which Tax Reform will likely be created by lawmakers. In this blog post, we focus our attention on the likely timing for Tax Reform.
When will we see Tax Reform? At this point in time, it is anyone’s guess. There are lots of external factors that impact the timing and possibility that Tax Reform in any shape or form will become a reality.
New Administration Doubles Down on Tax Reform Efforts
President Trump made it clear, both during his campaign and shortly after he entered the White House, that Tax Reform is a top priority. In fact, in an address to both branches of Congress on February 28, 2017, he stated that his administration “is developing historic [Tax Reform] that will reduce the tax rate on our companies so they can compete and thrive anywhere and with anyone …. it will be a big, big cut.” In addition, he indicated that his administration will provide “massive” tax relief for the middle class.
On April 11, 2017, we discussed what constitutes Tax Reform. In this blog post, we will explore the process by which Tax Reform will likely be created. After reading this post, if it seems to you that the legislative process for making tax laws is an awful lot like “making sausage,” you are perceptively correct.
The legislative process starts with the selection of special ingredients by lawmakers, who generally keep a keen eye on the intended result. The ingredients are mixed together carefully during the legislative process. Spices and other ingredients are added from various sources (e.g., input from legislative staff, the Treasury and industry). The product that results from the process is not always what was exactly intended at the start. Consequently, it may be tweaked somewhat before it is finally packaged and presented to the public.
Larry J. Brant
Larry J. Brant is a Shareholder and the Chair of the Tax & Benefits practice group at Foster Garvey, a law firm based out of the Pacific Northwest, with offices in Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Washington, D.C.; New York, New York, Spokane, Washington; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Beijing, China. Mr. Brant practices in the Portland office. His practice focuses on tax, tax controversy and transactions. Mr. Brant is a past Chair of the Oregon State Bar Taxation Section. He was the long-term Chair of the Oregon Tax Institute, and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Portland Tax Forum. Mr. Brant has served as an adjunct professor, teaching corporate taxation, at Northwestern School of Law, Lewis and Clark College. He is an Expert Contributor to Thomson Reuters Checkpoint Catalyst. Mr. Brant is a Fellow in the American College of Tax Counsel. He publishes articles on numerous income tax issues, including Taxation of S Corporations, Reasonable Compensation, Circular 230, Worker Classification, IRC § 1031 Exchanges, Choice of Entity, Entity Tax Classification, and State and Local Taxation. Mr. Brant is a frequent lecturer at local, regional and national tax and business conferences for CPAs and attorneys. He was the 2015 Recipient of the Oregon State Bar Tax Section Award of Merit.