Republicans unveil tax reform framework

By Alistair M. Nevius

Republican lawmakers released a framework for tax reform on Wednesday, announcing that their goals are to cut tax rates, simplify the Internal Revenue Code, and provide a more competitive environment for business. The framework generally reiterates proposals made by President Donald Trump in April.

Under the framework, the top individual tax rate would be 35% and the corporate tax rate would be 20% (Trump had been calling for a 15% corporate tax rate).

While the framework provides tax reform targets, it does not provide legislative language, which would still need to be developed in the congressional tax-writing committees. Republicans have announced that their goal is to have tax reform legislation enacted by the end of the year.

Individuals

For individual taxpayers, the framework calls for:

  • Three tax brackets: 12%, 25%, and 35% (currently there are seven brackets, with the lowest one being 10% and the top one being 39.6%). However, the framework allows congressional tax-writing committees to add a fourth, higher bracket for high-income individuals. The income levels at which the three brackets would apply were not specified.
  • Repeal of the alternative minimum tax.
  • Repeal of the estate tax and the generation-skipping transfer tax.
  • Taxing passthrough income at a maximum rate of 25%. (The tax-writing committees would be given the task of developing rules to ensure that high-income taxpayers do not use this provision to avoid the 35% bracket.)
  • Consolidating the standard deduction and personal exemptions into a larger standard deduction of $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly.
  • Increasing the child tax credit and providing a $500 credit for care of nonchild dependents.
  • Eliminating most itemized deductions, including the deduction for state and local taxes, while preserving the deductibility of mortgage interest and charitable contributions. The framework directs Congress to maintain tax incentives for higher education, retirement savings, and employment.

Businesses

For businesses, the framework calls for:

  • An end to taxation of U.S. companies’ worldwide income and a move to a territorial system. The tax-writing committees would have discretion to write anti-base-erosion measures.
  • A one-time tax on accumulated offshore earnings, which would be taxed at two unspecified rates: One rate for cash and cash equivalents and a lower rate for other assets.
  • Limiting the deductibility of interest.
  • Eliminating deductions, at the tax-writing committees’ discretion, but the framework calls for the research and low-income housing credits to be retained.
  • For five years (or more), allowing 100% expensing of the cost of depreciable assets, except for buildings.

Alistair M. Nevius (Alistair.Nevius@aicpa-cima.com) is the JofA’s editor-in-chief, tax.

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