Senate Tax Reform Bill Markup Kicks Off

The Senate Finance Committee (SFC) began a markup of its tax reform proposal on November 13, starting a committee debate that is expected to last most of the week. Senate Republicans released a Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) description of the Chairman’s Mark of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Bill last week .

Markup Kicks Off

The first day consisted largely of members’ opening statements on the GOP proposal. As expected, Republicans praised the measure while Democrats criticized it.

“What started out as a promise of a significant middle class tax cut has become a multi-trillion dollar bait and switch. A massive handout to multinational corporations and a bonanza for tax cheats and powerful political donors,” SFC ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said. In particular, Wyden criticized the GOP proposal for increasing taxes on the middle class. Additionally, Wyden condemned the GOP’s choice to craft a partisan bill rather than work with Democrats.

Bipartisan Ideas

In his opening remarks, SFC Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, R-Tex., stated that many of the tax reform provisions in the bill were proposals that Democrats supported in the past. He also pointed to a number of areas on which Republicans and Democrats agree. These areas include keeping deductions for mortgage interest and charitable contributions, as well as popular retirement savings programs such as 401(k)s and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs).

However, Hatch also remarked that it was “the Democrats’ own preconditions that kept them from engaging on tax reform. There was an open seat at the negotiating table; they collectively chose not to sit in it,” Hatch added. He made direct reference to an August 1 letter from 45 Senate Democrats listing “prerequisites to any bipartisan tax reform effort.”

Changes to Come

Hatch noted that the Chairman’s Mark, as originally introduced, would not pass Senate reconciliation requirements. Thus, the current tax reform proposals could not be permanent. “We are, of course, aware of this problem and are working to ensure that the reduce rates and additional reforms designed to bring investment back to the United States and create more American jobs remain in place past the 10-year budget window,” Hatch said.

To that end, a modified Chairman’s Mark is expected to be released on November 14, according to SFC staff. Generally, modifications include amendments that were filed and other changes. As of the afternoon on November 13, 355 amendments had been filed. A full discussion of the GOP proposal is scheduled for November 14. JCT and committee staff will be present. While debate and votes on amendments could come as early as Tuesday, they are expected to begin November 15. The “goal” is to have the bill approved by the committee by the end of the week, SFC staff told reporters.

By Jessica Jeane, Wolters Kluwer News Staff

Want to know more? Join Wolters Kluwer Principal Analyst Mark Luscombe on Nov. 29 for Tax Legislation Update: Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a 2-CPE webinar from CCH® CPElink. Mark will present a complete discussion of the proposed legislation and its impact on taxpayers.

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