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September 10, 2021

What to expect in Washington (September 10)

House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) said September 9 he will “probably” release highly anticipated tax proposals to be part of the Build Back Better Act reconciliation bill at some point this weekend, Bloomberg Government reported. Politico said Neal staff “softened that up a bit — noting that the committee aims to release the tax proposals in the next few days, but the exact timing is still up in the air.” The markup of nontax measures continues today, and the tax portion is set for September 14-15.

During the September 9 markup, Democrat Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) – who as part of a group of centrists has pushed for paying for the bill, pre-conferencing, and going slow – said she couldn’t vote for the separate titles (each of which is voted on separately) without more information. She summarized in tweets, “While I support many provisions in the Build Back Better Act, it’s being rushed through my committee before we know exactly what’s in it, what it’s going to cost, & how we’re going to pay for it. Without the full text of the bill, I simply cannot make an informed, substantive decision. I’m also frustrated it hasn’t been pre-conferenced w/the Senate.”

Republicans, including Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA), were also critical of the fact that Democratic leadership began the markup without revealing how the bill is to be paid for. The paid leave title was approved by the Committee 24-19. The retirement title, approved 22-20, would require employers without employer-sponsored plans to enroll employees in IRAs or 401(k)-type plans or pay an excise tax.

Negotiations over the broader Build Back Better Act are said to continue between House and Senate leaders and the White House. Senate Finance Committee Democrats held a virtual meeting on the tax provisions yesterday afternoon. Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) said after the meeting that Democratic tax writers were on the same page, Politico reported. “We’re committed to raising the revenue needed to pay for critical priorities for American families, and I’m feeling good about where we are as members return to Washington next week,” he said. While Chairman Wyden has released a number of proposals in the past months (including legislative text), when a full package of Senate tax proposals could be released is unclear.

Partnerships – New this morning, Chairman Wyden released a Pass-Through Reform Discussion Draft aimed at “partnership tax complexity,” estimated to raise more than $172 billion that Wyden said could be used for priorities like child care and paid leave. A Finance Committee spokesperson told Tax Notes that the draft legislation is on the “revenue menu” for the budget reconciliation bill. The draft includes provisions to require basis adjustments of partnership property for disparities between the partnership’s basis in its property and the partners’ basis – similar to the Camp Tax Reform Act of 2014 – require that all partnerships use the remedial method for IRC Section 704(c) allocations and repeal the seven-year time period for the application of the mixing bowl rules.

Also this morning, Wyden and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) unveiled the Stock Buyback Accountability Act to assess a 2% excise tax on the amount spent by a publicly-traded company on buying back its own stock.

The New York Times reported that the stock buyback proposal is projected to raise $100 billion and both that and the partnership proposal are “likely to be included in the Senate’s far-reaching budget bill to offset some of its $3.5 trillion in social policy spending.”

Reporting on the partnership and buyback proposals this morning, the Wall Street Journal said, “The latest plans come as Democrats debate among themselves exactly how much in taxes they want to raise — and who should pay more. Proposals on international corporate taxes and capital gains have faced internal opposition from Democrats, leaving lawmakers looking through the tax code for revenue-raising alternatives that might face less resistance.”

International tax – A readout said during a September 9 virtual meeting with G7 finance ministers, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen “expressed how the Biden-Harris Administration is pleased with the progress the U.S. Congress is making to strengthen the U.S. international tax rules, with a committee markup on the reconciliation legislation beginning today. The Secretary noted the generational importance for Congress to seize this historic opportunity to end the race to the bottom by enacting a U.S. minimum tax rate on foreign earnings of at least 21 percent on a per-country basis.”

Health – President Biden September 9 announced plans to require all employers with 100+ employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly, and to require COVID-19 vaccinations for health care workers at Medicare and Medicaid participating hospitals and other health care settings (including but not limited to hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings, and home health agencies).

The House Energy & Commerce Committee will mark up its portion of the Build Back Better Act, including climate and health provisions, on Monday, September 13. Health proposals would lower the cost of prescription drugs through price negotiation and other means; expand access to Medicare dental, vision, and hearing coverage; close the so-called Medicaid coverage gap; invest $190 billion in home- and community-based services; permanently extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); expand maternal health care; and provide funding to start the Biden administration’s proposed biomedical research agency, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H).

Climate – E&C climate provisions include $13.5 billion in electric vehicle infrastructure to support development of an electric vehicle charging network and a Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP) at the Department of Energy intended to complement tax incentives for clean energy through grants to and payments from electricity suppliers from 2023 - 2030 based on how much qualified clean electricity each supplier provides to customers.

Debt limit – Secretary Yellen September 8 told Congress that without addressing the debt limit, “the most likely outcome is that cash and extraordinary measures will be exhausted during the month of October.”

IRS – The IRS released the Department of Treasury 2021 - 2022 Priority Guidance Plan.

Today, September 10 (12:00 p.m. ET), is the EY Webcast, “Tax in the time of COVID-19: Update on legislative, economic, regulatory and IRS developments.” Register


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