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Business tax executives name top concerns in survey

Tax executives’ top business tax concern is that Congress will enact provisions that lead to the loss of tax breaks without corresponding rate reductions, according to the results of an annual survey released Wednesday.

The survey was distributed electronically by Miller & Chevalier and the National Foreign Trade Council in January and was completed by 120 business tax executives.

Thirty percent of respondents said the elimination of tax preferences without lower rates was their biggest concern for the year, 23 percent said the top statutory individual and corporate tax rates was their greatest concern, and 19 percent cited the taxation of international operations. These topics have been consistently among business tax executives’ biggest worries, according to the report.

None of the survey participants said they think tax reform will happen this year, and 82 percent think there won’t be any tax legislation at all, according to the report about the poll.

Marc Gerson, a member in Miller & Chevalier's tax group, said the survey results are a “confirmation of the current environment.” While there is a lot of discussion about tax reform in Congress and in the presidential campaigns, business tax executives acknowledge that “this would be a very difficult year to move tax reform forward,” he said.

When executives were asked to name the factor they thought was the greatest obstacle to comprehensive tax reform being enacted, they were fairly evenly split among three answers: divided government, a lack of agreement on the desired revenue impact and a lack of administration support.

“The November elections could provide more clarity and resolve one or more of these outstanding questions,” the report on the survey stated. The overwhelming majority of executives said comprehensive tax reform has the greatest likelihood of being enacted in the next Congress if Republicans control both the House and the Senate.

About 29 percent of respondents said they were unsure when comprehensive tax reform will be enacted, while the same percentage thought it will be enacted in 2017 and 28 percent thought it will be enacted in 2018, according to the report.

The top two issues that respondents want addressed through comprehensive tax reform are high statutory tax rates and replacing the worldwide system of taxing foreign earnings with a territorial system. The executives' top concern with tax reform is that the tax rates will not be lowered enough.

A plurality of executives thought that if comprehensive tax reform is enacted, the top corporate tax rate will be 25 percent, and roughly half of respondents responded that they think the top individual rate will be 35 percent or higher, the survey found.

About 47 percent of respondents said they believe the campaign season will lead to more discussion of tax reform this year, while 42 percent think there will be no change in the amount of discussion on the topic.

Forty-two percent of tax executives said they think the tax area candidates will focus most on is the taxation of high earners, while about 40 percent said they think candidates will focus most on comprehensive tax reform, according to the report.