Federal Tax Plan = Meaningful Cuts More Than Comprehensive Reform

The “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” (H.R. 1) has finally arrived! The long-awaited details – over 400 pages worth – are now out there for all to debate. This is a debate that will play out before the House Republican Ways and Means Committee this week. Much of the public discourse will focus on how it impacts individuals, but for the business community it is the taxation of businesses, large and small, that is of the most significance.

The plan includes a reduction of the corporate rate from 35% to 20%, an important and meaningful step. It also caps the taxation of income derived from pass-throughs (S corporations, LLCs, partnerships and sole proprietorships) at 25%. Key provisions are outlined below. And if you are truly into tax law, the full bill is also available, as is a section-by-section summary.

Now you may note that this legislation is labeled a tax cut, not tax reform. And while many will call it that, it is probably better characterized as a tax cut bill. Cuts are good, and these measures will certainly be the impetus for some level of economic growth. But the trillion dollar questions remain: How much will it spur in gross domestic product (GDP) growth? And, can that realistically be enough to offset the projected reductions in tax collections?

Nobody can really know the answers to these politically-charged questions. But as you read the “scoring” of this legislation (to be published by the Congressional Budget Office after passage out of the House Ways and Means Committee), you may consider these items for context: the GDP growth rate in the United States averaged 3.22% from 1947 until 2017; GDP has pleasantly surprised people by breaking the 3% mark the last couple quarters; and the GDP will probably need to go a good bit higher to prevent the bill from adding substantially to the already staggering federal deficit. So listen for what growth rates are assumed in the projections that will be discussed and debated – and draw your own conclusions.

Key provisions affecting businesses

  • Reduces the corporate tax rate: The rate will drop to 20% from the current 35% and is designed to be permanent.
  • Establishes a repatriation tax rate: The repatriation rate on overseas assets for U.S. companies would be as high as 12%. The bill also may include a mandatory repatriation of all foreign assets. Illiquid assets would be taxed at a lower rate, spread out over a longer period than liquid assets like cash.
  • Creates a 25% rate for pass-through businesses: Instead of getting taxed at an individual rate for business profits, people who own their own business would pay at the so-called pass-through rate. (There will be some guardrails on what kinds of businesses can claim this rate to avoid individuals abusing the lower tax.)

Key provisions affecting individuals

  • Creates new individual income brackets:
    • 12% for income up to $45,000 for individuals and $90,000 for a married couple
    • 25% up to $200,000 individual/$260,000 couples
    • 35% up to $500,000 individual/$1 million couples
    • 6% over $500,000 individual/$1million couples
  • Caps state and local property tax deduction at $10,000, but does NOT cap income or sales tax deductions.
  • Eliminates the estate tax: The threshold for the tax, which applies only to estates with greater than $5.6 million in assets during 2018, would double to over $10 million; the plan then phases out the tax after six years.
  • Does NOT change taxation of 401(k) plans.
  • Increases the child tax credit to $1,600 from $1,000. The bill would also add a credit of $300 for each non-child dependent or parent for five years, after which that provision would expire.
  • Limits home mortgage interest deduction: On new-home purchases, interest on loans up to $500,000 would be deductible. (The current limit is $1 million.)
  • Nearly doubles the standard deduction: To avoid raising taxes on those currently in the 10% tax bracket, the standard deduction for all taxes would increase to $12,000 for individuals (up from $6,350) and $24,000 for married couples (up from $12,700).
  • Eliminates most personal itemized deductions and many credits. The only deductions preserved explicitly in the plan are for charitable gifts and edited home-mortgage interest.
  • Repeals the alternative minimum tax (AMT). The tax, which forces people who qualify because of an outsized number of deductions, would be eliminated under the legislation.

Full policy highlights of the bill can be found here.

Keep in mind this is the House’s plan and it will be subject to a different form of scrutiny in the Senate. So regardless all the prior coordination among those working together on this effort for months, some (perhaps many) things will change – they always do!

As for the timeline, it’s hard to say. But we do know that the House Ways and Means Committee will begin hearing amendments this week, and the process could take several days. A vote on the bill by the full House, as it is passed out of Ways and Means, is anticipated to come as early as November 13. From there it goes to the Senate Finance Committee, then full Senate. Optimists hope for something to pass before the end of the year. However, don’t be surprised if the debate isn’t carried over into the beginning of 2018.

Indiana’s delegation members are also weighing in with their views on the new tax bill. Chief among them is Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02), a member of the pivotal House Ways and Means Committee: “Hoosiers deserve every opportunity to achieve success and live the American Dream, and that’s what tax reform is all about. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will help American businesses expand, invest and hire more workers, and it will let middle-class families keep more of the money they earn. It’s time to fix our broken tax code and level the playing field for hardworking Americans by once again making America the best place in the world to do business.”

Resource: Bill Waltz at (317) 264-6887 or email: [email protected] 

Number of Independent Workers Continues to Climb

The independent workforce continues to grow and mature, even as the economy continues to rebound and the unemployment rate declines, according to MBO Partners, the nation’s largest provider of business services and tools to the self-employed and companies that engage them. The company released its 2017 State of Independence in America report, the country’s longest-running end-to-end survey of the American independent workforce.

According to the new report, the total number of self-employed Americans aged 21 and above rose to 40.9 million in 2017, up 2.8% from 2016. Independents, who now represent about 31% of the U.S. civilian labor force, are distributed across every demographic, age, gender, skill and income group.

Over 40% of the U.S. adult workforce reports either currently working or having worked as an independent at one time during their careers. Over the next five years, MBO Partners projects that fully half of the U.S. adult workforce will have experienced what independent work can offer.

Independents work in all segments of the U.S. workforce and are of vital impact to our economy, generating roughly $1.2 trillion of revenue for the U.S. economy, equal to about 6% of U.S. GDP.

Three key trends emerged from this year’s study:

  • The number of high earning independents rose for the sixth year in a row. Ongoing economic expansion enables those whose skills are in high demand to get more work and to command a premium for their services. Now, 3.2 million full-time independents make more than $100,000 annually, up 4.9% from 2016 and an annualized increase of more than 3% each year since 2011.

  • More Americans are seeking to supplement their income with part-time independent work or “side gigging.”Though the economy is getting stronger, the typical American worker has seen very little – if any – wage gains. As a result, many Americans who are struggling to keep up with inflation and higher costs are supplementing their income with part-time independent work or side gigging. Fueled in part by the growth of the increasing number of online platforms, the number of people working as occasional independents (those working irregularly or sporadically as independents but at least once per month) soared 23% to 12.9 million, up from 10.5 million in 2016.

  • A strong job market has created a “barbell effect” on both sides of the independent work spectrum. Work opportunities are growing on both sides of the spectrum – both unskilled and skilled – creating a barbell effect. At the low end of the market, there is growing demand for online platform workers, such as Uber drivers or TaskRabbiters, who usually go independent to supplement income, learn new skills or even to socialize in retirement. On the other end of the spectrum, we see a strong rise in entrepreneurial independent professionals earning significant incomes by offering unique services in areas such as technology and marketing.

Obama’s Budget Passes, Indiana Chamber Opposes

The U.S. House passed the budget on a party-line vote Thursday night, 233-196; later the Senate passed a modified version 55-43 with two Democrats joining all 41 Republicans in opposition. Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Shirkieville) was one of the two.

This budget calls for approximately $4 trillion in expenditures in a single year, or nearly 29% of our country’s gross domestic product (GDP). According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, the Obama Administration’s budget blueprint, if followed, would double the national debt in five years and nearly triple it by 2019 – a point at which America’s federal debt would equal 82% of GDP.

The Indiana Chamber adamantly opposes such irresponsible spending, as well as many of the specific programs and tax increases included in the president’s proposal and urged the entire Indiana congressional delegation to reject the president’s proposal and adopt a more fiscally restrained, responsible alternative.

In addition to unsustainable spending and unacceptable levels of public indebtedness, President Obama’s budget would radically alter the federal government’s relationship to its citizens through expansive new proposals regarding taxation, energy, environmental regulation and health care. Hoosiers are looking for a common-sense solution to restore the economy, not an expansive overhaul of federal government programs. Increasing taxes as a means to finance new federal spending on health care reform, Medicare and energy policy resulting in the country’s largest government expansion in decades is the wrong answer at the wrong time. The country simply cannot afford a budget this out-sized, nor can we expect small businesses to invest in the economy or employ workers while their livelihoods are threatened by tax hikes and federal intervention across numerous markets and industries.

The Indiana Chamber is alarmed at the sheer size of the president’s proposal and what it portends for the future of free enterprise, job creation and economic growth in our country.

HOW THEY VOTED:  Within Indiana’s Congressional delegation, Democrat Joe Donnelly and Republicans Dan Burton, Steve Buyer, Mike Pence and Mark Souder voted against the budget plan. Democrats Andre Carson, Brad Ellsworth, Baron Hill and Pete Visclosky voted in favor. In the Senate, both Republican Richard Lugar and Democrat Evan Bayh voted against.

Big Enough to Take It Away

The National Center for Policy Analysis recently dissected a Human Events column from Terence P. Jeffrey about America’s need for smaller government. You can read the entire piece here, but here’s the NCPA’s synopsis:

Up until the 1930s, the United States maintained a small federal government that mostly focused on the limited number of things the Constitution authorized it to do.  Americans were responsible for their own food, clothing and shelter, and believed in earning wealth.  What changed?  Well, in the 1930s, we didn’t have a welfare state, says Terence Jeffrey, editor of Human Events.

According to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in 1930:

  • The federal government spent only 3.4 percent of gross domestic product, federal tax receipts equaled 4.2 percent of GDP and there was a federal budget surplus of 0.8 percent of GDP.

  • By 1940, with the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his modern American welfare state, federal spending was 9.8 percent of GDP, federal tax receipts were 6.8 percent and the Treasury borrowed 3 percent of GDP to make up the difference.

  • The "human resources" part of the federal budget consumed 4.3 percent of GDP; in 2009, it will consume 13 percent. Continue reading