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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Tax reform - lower rates and rapid depreciation - possible?

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) sent a letter (10/28/13) to Congress about the upcoming budget conference. NAM comments on various budget related topics including tax reform and entitlement problems. Regarding tax reform, NAM suggests that tax reform include: 

       1.25% corporate rate 
       2.Lower taxes for S corp owners 
       3.Permanent and competitive research incentive 
       4.Competitive international system 
       5. A “robust capital recovery system to spur business investment and expansion in the United States.”

  • While they specify a rate for corporate tax, they don't for S corp shareholders. Does that mean they don't think it should be as low as 25% or perhaps it can't be in a revenue neutral manner?  They might also be recognizing that not all passthrough entities have lots of income (and thus might already be taxed at rates well below the maximum rate of 39.6%) and are really more focused on publicly-traded corporations.
  • They do not mention how to get the rate lowered in a revenue-neutral manner (assuming they are calling for a revenue neutral manner). In an October 2011 report by the JCT, they noted that is would cost about $76 billion per year to get to a 28% revenue neutral rate. The largest tax expenditure they reduced to get to a possible revenue neutral rate reduction was to switch from MACRS depreciation to the slower ADS rules. That covers about 70% of the rate drop!  JCT also included repeal of R&D expensing which would generate perhaps $16 billion per year.  They did not have to estimate a cost of repeal of the research credit because that was already terminated when they did their report (it was extended through the end of 2013 by the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 on 1/2/13).[Also see Nellen, The Rough Road to a 28% Corporate Tax Rate, AICPA Corporate Taxation Insider, 11/10/11]

So, how is a lower corporate tax rate to be achieved? Will Congress do it with timing items (such as depreciation, R&D expensing, LIFO repeal) or will they somehow find revenue from permanent changes, such as repeal of the Section 199 manufacturing deduction?  That won't be enough though. I think they will have to look at increasing the individual capital gains rate. That might take going back to the Tax Reform Act of 1986 when the maximum rate for individuals on all income types was 28%.

What do you think?

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