Vernoia, Enterline + Brewer, CPA LLC

Posts tagged ‘tax extenders’

2016 enhancements to certain tax incentives

Passage of the “Tax Extenders” undeniably provided one of the major headlines – and tax benefits – to come out of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act), signed into law on December 18, 2015. Although these tax extenders (over 50 of them in all) were largely made retroactive to January 1, 2015, valuable enhancements to some of these tax benefits were not made retroactive. Rather, these enhancements were made effective only starting January 1, 2016. (more…)

Last-minute tax planning strategies

In between preparing for the year-end holidays, school vacations, travel, work, and so on, tax planning should not be on the back burner. Although 2015 is quickly coming to a close, there is still time, with careful planning, to execute some last minute tax strategies. In many cases, these strategies can help minimize the tax burden. Of course, every individual’s situation is different, so please contact our office for specific details about a year-end tax planning strategy customized to you. (more…)

“Lame-duck” Congress returns with busy post-election tax agenda

lame duckLawmakers are scheduled to return to work after the November elections for the so-called “lame-duck” Congress. Despite what is expected to be a short session, there is likely to be movement on important tax bills.

Tax extenders

Every two years, like clockwork, the same scenario seems to play-out in Congress. Many popular but temporary tax incentives expire and lawmakers debate whether to extend them, make them permanent or abolish them. This year is no exception. The new filing season is fast approaching and many tax breaks are, at this time, unavailable because they expired after 2013.

The expired tax breaks are known as “tax extenders.” Included within this catch-call category are a variety of tax incentives for individuals and businesses. Some are widely-claimed and are often inadvertently believed by taxpayers to be permanent…they are not. Individuals who claimed the state and local sales tax deduction, higher education tuition deduction, residential energy property credit, and others, in past years cannot claim them on their 2014 returns, unless the incentives are extended. The same is true for many business tax breaks, such as bonus depreciation, enhanced Code Sec. 179 small business expensing and the research tax credit. All of these incentives expired after 2013.

Congressional logjam

The last extension of the extenders was in the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. At that time, many lawmakers wanted to discontinue the practice of renewing the extenders every two years and make some permanent while eliminating others. However, the House and Senate have taken different approaches. The Senate Finance Committee approved the EXPIRE Act (S. 2260) earlier this year. The bill extends the expired tax breaks two years. The House, on the other hand, has voted to make permanent only some of the extenders, such as bonus depreciation and Code Sec. 179 expensing.

It is unclear how lawmakers will proceed before year-end. The EXPIRE Act, while approved by committee, has yet to get a vote on the Senate floor. House GOP leaders, who endorsed the piece-meal approach to making permanent some of the extenders, have not said if they will support another comprehensive temporary extension like the EXPIRE Act. It is possible that lawmakers will punt the extenders to the new Congress that meets in January. In that case, a delayed start to the filing season is almost guaranteed. Our office will keep you posted of developments.

More tax bills

Some stand-alone tax-related bills could be passed before year-end. The ABLE Act (S. 313) enjoys bipartisan support. The ABLE Act would create new tax-free savings accounts for individuals with disabilities. Funds in the accounts could be used for qualified medical, transportation, housing, and education expenses. The Don’t Forget Our Fallen Public Safety Heroes Act (S. 2912) passed the Senate in September and could be approved by the House before year-end. The bill would exclude from income certain benefits paid to the family of a public safety officer who dies in the line of duty.

IRS funding

The federal government, including the IRS, is currently operating under a stop-gap spending bill. The temporary spending bill is scheduled to expire in December. The lame-duck Congress is expected to approve an omnibus spending bill to keep the government open. Earlier this year, appropriators in the House and Senate reached very different conclusions on funding for the IRS in 2015. House appropriators voted to cut funding; Senate appropriators voted to increase funding. The IRS has been operating under tight budgetary restraints for several years and that pattern is expected to continue into 2015.

Tax technical corrections

Congress may also take up a package of tax technical corrections. These bills are not new tax laws but are corrections to language in existing laws. For example, lawmakers may have intended that a certain language be included in a final bill and that language was left out. Frequently, these corrections are clerical. These corrections are intended to facilitate the administration of law.

If you have any questions about the extenders or year-end tax legislation, please contact our office.

Congress juggles immediate and long-term tax issues

Nearly half-way into the year, tax legislation has been hotly debated in Congress but lawmakers have failed to move many bills. Only one bill, legislation to make permanent the research tax credit, has been approved by the House; its fate in the Senate still remains uncertain. Other bills, including legislation to extend many of the now-expired extenders before the 2015 filing season, have stalled. Tax measures could also be attached to other bills, especially as the days wind down to Congress’ August recess.

Tax extenders

Legislation to extend nearly all of the extenders seemed to be almost assured of passage in the Senate after the Senate Finance Committee (SFC) approved the EXPIRE Act in April. The EXPIRE Act would extend through 2015 many of the popular but temporary tax incentives, including the higher education tuition deduction, the state and local sales tax deduction, the deduction for mortgage premiums, research tax credit, Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), and more. In May, the EXPIRE Act became bogged down in procedural votes in the Senate. Democrats and Republicans could not agree whether amendments would be allowed and if so, how many amendments.

In the meantime, individual lawmakers have introduced bills to extend some of the extenders. The bills must be referred to committees (the SFC or the House Ways and Means Committee) for action. Committee chairs ultimately determine if the bills will be brought before the committee. SFC Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has signaled that the EXPIRE Act is likely his best attempt to move an extenders bill. Wyden has also said that he will not promote another extenders bill after 2015 (hence the name, EXPIRE Act). Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp, R-Mich., has largely kept the committee’s focus on the proposals outlined in his proposed Tax Reform Act of 2014.

Lawmakers have roughly eight weeks before their month-long August recess to act on the extenders. Our office will keep you posted of developments.

Research tax credit

The research tax credit is a very popular business tax incentive. Its popularity has pushed it to the front of the line in the House for renewal. One drawback is the credit’s cost: estimated at $155 billion over 10 years.

In May, the House approved the American Research and Competitiveness Act of 2014. The bill attracted support from both Democrats and Republicans. The bill makes permanent and enhances the research tax credit. The bill is not offset, which is a stumbling block to winning support from Senate Democrats. In fact, President Obama has said he would veto the bill in its present form if it reaches his desk. There is a possibility, albeit slight, that the Senate could pass its own version of the research tax credit and the House and Senate would try to reach a compromise in conference.

Corporate taxation

President Obama, lawmakers from both parties and many taxpayers agree that the U.S. corporate tax rate should be reduced. They disagree on how to pay, or if to offset, any reduction. President Obama continues to promote the elimination of some business tax preferences, particularly tax incentives for oil, gas and fossil fuel producers, as the way to pay for a corporate tax rate cut. The President also has called for using some of the revenues to fund road and bridge construction.

Democrats in the House and Senate have also honed in on so-called “corporate inversions.” These occur when U.S. companies merge with foreign ones for tax purposes. The merged entity is often located in a low-tax jurisdiction, such as Ireland with a corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent, compared to the U.S. corporate tax rate of 35 percent. House and Senate Democrats have introduced companion bills (Stop Corporate Inversions Act of 2014) to curb these mergers. Under current law, a corporate inversion will not be respected for U.S. tax purposes if 80 percent or more of the new combined corporation (incorporated offshore) is owned by historic shareholders of the U.S. corporation. The bill would reduce the threshold to 50 percent. House and Senate Republicans are not expected to support the bill.

Other bills

On July 1, the interest rate on federal subsidized Stafford loans is set to increase from 3.4 to 6.8 percent. Legislation introduced in the Senate, the Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act, would provide a one-year “fix” by setting the rate at the primary interest rate offered through the Federal Reserve discount window. The bill would be paid for by the so-called “Buffett Rule,” which generally would disallow certain tax preferences to higher income individuals. Along with the student loan bill, lawmakers have on their agenda legislation to renew federal highway spending, as discussed above. A final highway bill with tax-related provisions could be approved before the August recess. Some lawmakers have proposed a hike in the federal gasoline tax but it is unlikely to be approved.

If you have any questions about how these changes may impact your tax situation, please contact our office at (908) 725-4414.