Tax reform continues to be highly touted in Congress as lawmakers from both parties call for simplification of countless complex rules, overhaul of tax rates and more. At times this year, the president and congressional republicans seem far apart on a way forward, but at similar times in the past, agreements have quickly and often surprisingly emerged, most recently in the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act). As we approach the November elections, lawmakers from both parties and the president have a short window to agree on tax legislation.

PATH Act Impact

The scope of the PATH Act surprised many Hill observers, including Congress’ vote to make permanent many tax incentives such as the state and local sales tax deduction, research tax credit and teachers’ classroom expense deduction. Additionally, it made changes to the rules for IRS administration, real estate investment trusts (REITs), how the Tax Court works and more – resulting in the largest tax bill since the American Tax Relief Act of 2012. The passage of the PATH Act shows that another tax bill, possibly an even larger tax reform package, could make it out of Congress before year-end.

Everything on the Table

Almost everything in the Tax Code appears to be on the table at this time. Among the provisions/ideas being discussed by legislators are:

  • Consolidation of the individual income tax rates
  • Enhancing incentives for lower- and middle-income taxpayers
  • Revising/repealing some of the tax measures under the Affordable Care Act
  • Lowering the U.S. corporate tax rate
  • Consolidating education tax incentives
  • Eliminating/consolidating some energy tax breaks
  • Repealing the alternative minimum tax (AMT)
  • Tweaking the child tax credit, earned income tax credit, and child and dependent care credit

International Tax Reform

Reforming the rules for international taxation, such as the complex rules for corporate inversions, transfer pricing and more, has been of special interest this year. One unanswered question is whether international tax reform can move forward by itself or if proponents need to add “sweeteners” such as expanded tax breaks for lower- and middle-income taxpayers to win support in Congress. Some lawmakers want to link international tax reform to a cut in the U.S. corporate tax rate. How to pay for any rate cuts also is generating questions and few answers. President Obama has proposed to tighten the international tax rules and use the expected revenue to pay for infrastructure projects, along with reducing the corporate tax rate.

Energy Tax Measures

Before Congress’ summer recess, a package of energy tax breaks could be approved by the House and Senate. Many of these are temporary incentives that were not included in the PATH Act, such as the special credits for fuel-cell vehicles, and there is a bipartisan effort to make them permanent.

For more information about tax reform and what measures you may take now in anticipation of changes ahead, contact Doeren Mayhew’s tax advisors today.