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House GOP readying economic package with business tax breaks

Emerging legislation would restore tax breaks that have lapsed or begun to phase out

House Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo., left, confers with House Budget Chairman Jodey C. Arrington, R-Texas, before the House Rules Committee meeting on the GOP debt limit increase and deficit reduction package on Tuesday.
House Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo., left, confers with House Budget Chairman Jodey C. Arrington, R-Texas, before the House Rules Committee meeting on the GOP debt limit increase and deficit reduction package on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Republicans are preparing to take up some favored tax breaks as part of a broader package aimed at spurring economic growth.

The bill would revive three tax benefits for businesses that lapsed or began to phase down under the GOP’s 2017 tax law, which Republicans have been eager to extend. Tax writers are still working on the package, but it could include a broader set of provisions, according to multiple sources.

Republicans are aiming to unveil the legislation in May or June, according to a source familiar with the discussions, though it wasn’t immediately clear how quickly it would reach the floor.

The tax provisions sure to be in the bill at this point, sources said, include a revival of full, upfront expensing of research and development costs. Starting in 2022, companies have had to take the deductions over five years for that spending, generally making the tax break less lucrative and leading to an outpouring of pressure from businesses.

The second provision would allow businesses to take tax deductions for 100 percent of costs for short-term investments — like machinery, equipment and buildings — in the first year they make the purchases. Starting in 2023, companies can only take deductions upfront for 80 percent of those costs, and that percentage will continue phasing down through 2026.

A third would restore a looser limit for writing off interest expenses. Beginning in 2022, businesses are limited to deductions for interest expenses of up to 30 percent of earnings before interest and taxes, and after depreciation and amortization costs are subtracted. That’s less beneficial than before 2022, when companies could write off interest expenses worth up to 30 percent of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

Gig workers, car dealers

Several other tax provisions are likely to be included, according to sources who requested anonymity to discuss private conversations. Republicans are likely to include some relief from a new $600 threshold for tax reporting that applies to online sales and gig work on sites like Venmo, eBay, Etsy, Uber and Airbnb.

Another potential piece is some form of retaliation against countries that tax U.S.-based global companies because the U.S. hasn’t put in place a 15 percent minimum tax on multinational firms’ earnings.

The Biden administration negotiated a pact for the minimum tax that includes a rule allowing countries to impose extra tax on foreign companies as punishment for not adopting the deal. But Congress never implemented the agreement, dropping legislative provisions in the final bargaining over last year’s budget reconciliation package.

Car dealerships that saw bigger tax bills due to global microchip shortages amid the COVID-19 pandemic could also get a boost, and tax credits that incentivize real estate developers to build more affordable housing have come up in discussions.

The package could also include other tax provisions aimed at aiding small businesses and lower-income families, a point that Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo., emphasized during his campaign for the committee’s gavel last year.

The options that Republicans are eyeing might set the stage for discussions later this year to find long-awaited bipartisan agreement with the Senate on tax legislation, particularly if they offer benefits for lower-income families that have bipartisan support.

Two of the business tax breaks expected to be in the economic growth package would be extended permanently under legislation introduced with bipartisan backing.

One would renew the more generous interest expense deduction calculation, and the other would restore full, upfront R&D expensing. Another bill would make permanent the 100 percent bonus depreciation rules, though for now that just has GOP backing.

Democrats have said they won’t get on board with extensions unless they’re part of a tax package that also expands social safety net provisions in the tax code, with some specifying they need to see the child tax credit expanded. That led efforts to assemble a bipartisan package of tax extensions to fizzle late last year.

But the economic and tax package could also kick off a debate that’s likely to haunt the House GOP any time tax issues come up: Pressure from New York, New Jersey and California lawmakers to lift the $10,000 limit on deducting state and local taxes Republicans created in the 2017 tax law.

Republicans have a slim majority and can only lose four votes on the floor when all Democrats oppose a bill. Eight Republicans have signed onto a measure that would fully restore the state and local tax deduction, and more have their own “SALT” bills or are part of a bipartisan SALT Caucus.

Rep. Andrew Garbarino, a New York Republican and leader of the SALT Caucus, said in an interview that the economic growth package could be a venue for opponents of the cap to press their case. Those Republicans want to lift the SALT cap before it expires at the end of 2025 and would object to an extension of the $10,000 limit.

Many other Republicans support the SALT cap, which helped pay for other tax cuts in 2017 and mostly impacts blue states where income and property taxes tend to be higher.

A win on SALT could be significant for some swing district Republicans, and their will to press the issue appears strong. Some freshmen from New York have said they’d bring it up in discussions around raising the debt limit, a tense standoff that some other SALT backers don’t see as a viable option at this point.

“We’re gonna see what sort of appeal there is in this House and the Senate and the White House,” Rep. Nick LaLota, R-N.Y., said of a debt limit-related push. “We have our fingers crossed.”

Paul M. Krawzak contributed to this report.

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