GOP chairman releases year-end tax package

Greg Nash

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) late Monday released a 297-page tax and IRS package that would address a host of issues some lawmakers are interested in tackling in the lame-duck session.

The legislation includes provisions to renew expired tax provisions, make technical fixes to last year’s tax-cut law, provide incentives for retirement savings, provide tax relief for disaster victims and make improvements to the IRS. It would provide for a resolution of a number of tax issues in the final weeks of the year while Republicans still control both chambers of Congress.

The House Rules Committee is scheduled to hold a meeting on the legislation on Wednesday, and a Republican aide said that the package is likely to receive a vote on the House floor later this week.

{mosads}Brady said in a statement that provisions in the bill have bipartisan support, but it remains to be seen whether Senate Democrats will support the measure. The package would need 60 votes to pass the Senate, meaning that some Democratic senators would need to back it for it to become law. 

“This broad, bipartisan package builds on the economic successes we continue to see throughout our country,” Brady said. “The policy proposals in this package have support of Republicans and Democrats in both chambers. I look forward to swift action in the House to send these measures to the Senate.”

One portion of the bill would extend tax breaks that expired at the end of 2017. These provisions, known as tax extenders, are typically renewed by Congress every year or two.

The bill would make permanent a tax credit related to railroad track maintenance, phase out tax breaks for biodiesel and renewable diesel and extend a number of other expired tax provisions through the end of 2018 — including tax breaks that benefit the renewable energy, horse racing and motorsports industries.

Another part of the bill focuses on tax relief for victims of Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Michael, California wildfires and storms and volcanoes in the Pacific. Congress often passes legislation with disaster tax relief provisions toward the end of the year, following major storms and other disasters.

The bill also includes some provisions that were part of House Republicans’ “tax reform 2.0” package that the House approved in September, including provisions aimed at facilitating retirement savings and business innovation. It does not, however, include some of the parts of the package that Democrats found most objectionable — such as those to make the individual tax cuts in the GOP’s 2017 tax law permanent or to create universal savings accounts.

The package would make several fixes to drafting errors in the 2017 tax law that had been sought by lawmakers and businesses. It would make two technical corrections that have been strongly desired by the retail industry. It also would make a fix to a provision that bars businesses from deducting sexual harassment settlements involving nondisclosure agreements so that it does not unintentionally hurt sexual-misconduct victims. 

Additionally, the bill includes provisions aimed at modernizing the IRS that the House passed on a bipartisan basis in April, including provisions aimed at improving the agency’s customer service and information technology.

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