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Senate GOP to Delay Corporate Tax Cut, Repeal ‘SALT’ Deduction

Finance Committee releases plan highlights

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven at a news conference in the Capitol on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven at a news conference in the Capitol on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 5:25 p.m. | Senate Republicans proposed Thursday to delay a corporate tax cut for one year and fully repeal the deduction for state and local taxes, taking a different approach than the House on overhauling the tax code.

The plan highlights released by the Senate Finance Committee show shared goals with the House bill advanced by the Ways and Committee on Thursday. Both would provide tax cuts at all income levels, slash the corporate rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, and expand benefits for families with children. For multinational companies, the proposals would shift to a new territorial tax regime.

But the mechanisms for achieving such goals are different.

Unlike the House bill, the Senate proposal would keep seven tax brackets for individuals. The brackets would be adjusted to 10 percent, 12 percent, 22.5 percent, 25 percent, 32.5 percent, 35 percent and 38.5 percent, according to Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota. The House bill has four brackets of 12 percent, 25 percent, 35 percent and 39.6 percent.

In a key difference, the Senate tax plan also would fully repeal the state and local tax deduction, also known as SALT, according to a GOP aide and senator. But the House bill, in a concession to lawmakers from high-tax states, would allow local property taxes to be deducted up to $10,000.

Following outcry from home builders and real estate interests, the Senate proposal would preserve the existing mortgage interest deduction for debt up to $1 million. The House bill would cap the debt at $500,000 for newly purchased homes and end the deduction for second homes.

Full repeal of the state and local tax deduction could cause angst among some House Republicans, particularly those from New York and New Jersey who have expressed concerns over full repeal. Whether the Senate proposal will influence how any member votes in the House, however, remains to be seen.

The Senate plan also would boost the child tax credit from $1,000 to $1,650 per child, according to the committee’s fact sheet. The House bill would expand the credit to $1,600 and include a $300 credit for each parent and non-child dependent.

Both the House and Senate would nearly double the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for couples.

Delayed corporate cut

In what will likely cause concern from businesses and the White House, the Senate plan would delay the corporate rate cut to 2019, while the House would make it effective in 2018. The one-year delay was said to be one option and others are being discussed, according to a Republican senator.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Fox Business Network that President Donald Trump would like to see the tax cut for businesses put in place immediately. Senate Republicans said their measure would allow businesses to fully expense equipment purchases right away, which they say will entice some companies to make investments even if the rate cut is delayed.

The Senate proposal would retain the current deduction for medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of adjusted gross income, claimed by about 8.8 million tax filers, while the House would scrap it.

Both chambers would keep the adoption tax credit, now that Ways and Means Committee reversed course to do so under an amendment adopted during Thursday’s markup.

The Senate bill would also retain the student loan interest deduction and the estate tax, though it would double the estate tax exemption threshold for money left to heirs, lawmakers said.

Neither bill would repeal the individual mandate in the 2010 health care law as Trump had sought.

“There are two or things in it I hate but I think they have done a terrific job of focusing on the single, three-word goal of raising family incomes for almost every American,” Sen. Lamar Alexander said of the proposal crafted by Senate tax writers.

“The goal is to raise family incomes and unleash the tremendous potential in this country for that, and I think this proposal will do that,” the Tennessee Republican said.

Conceptual language

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch is incorporating the proposals into his chairman’s mark — a document with broad contours but no legislative language. Such an approach, in which the release of actual legislative text is delayed, is common for the committee. The panel is expected to begin a markup of the bill next week.

Republicans are using a fast-track budget procedure known as reconciliation to advance the tax bill with only GOP support. Some Democrats — such as Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Donnelly of Indiana — have kept open the possibility of supporting the proposal. It remains to be seen whether the summary released on Thursday will be enough to earn any backing from the minority party.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and other Democrats were quick to pounce as details of the tax proposal trickled out throughout the day. In particular, Schumer blasted the Republican proposal to repeal the SALT deduction as a direct attack on the middle class. A Roll Call analysis previously found that while many middle-class families use the deduction, higher income households receive the majority of the benefits.

Democrats said the House GOP’s move to allow some state and local tax deductions to stay for property taxes was just a fig leaf.

“The Republicans in the House thought they were throwing a few crumbs to members to get them to walk the plank,” House Minority Nancy Pelosi said of the House GOP plan to allow a maximum $10,000 deduction for state and local property taxes. “That is not in the Senate bill.”

Mary Ellen McIntire and Kellie Medjrich contributed to this report.

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