New Congress, new tax rules, old obstacles

 On the first day of the new Congress, new and old tax laws are being calculated, implemented, and executed. Tax prep firms are ready and waiting to help tax filers while repealing the medical tax device remains on the agenda. 

AP Photo/Cliff Owen/File
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio administers a ceremonial re-enactment of the oath-of-office to Rep. Tom Reed, D-N.Y., accompanied by his wife Jean Reed and other family members, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

The House orders dynamic scoring. On the first day of the new Congress, the House, by a largely party line vote, instructed the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office to include macroeconomic effects when it calculates the revenue effects of major tax bills. The rule comes with several loopholes but Democrats are still fuming. It is unclear how the Senate will address this.   

The ACA and tax filing season: Tax prep firms are gearing up. The Affordable Care Act resulted in 46 changes to the tax code. The TPC’s handy ACA Calculator helps filers figure any tax penalty for remaining uninsured. Now that about 7 million Americans have enrolled through health exchanges, they’ll be filing taxes beginning this month, and will likely need help understanding whether they owe a penalty or whether their tax subsidy is correct. Tax prep firms such as H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt, and online vendor TurboTax are ready and waiting to help. Makes one wonder, again, whether tax prep firms can’t be an important portal to ACA health exchanges, during, say, tax filing season.

Repealing the Medical Device Tax: Low-hanging fruit, if a little pricey. The Hill reports on a GOP top priority to repeal the 2.3 percent sales tax on medical equipment produced by about 7,000 companies nationwide. Last year the tax generated about $2.3 billion. By 2022, it could raise $29 billion and help offset the cost of insuring millions of Americans. A few Republicans oppose repeal—only because they want Obamacare to remain “as painful as possible” until the entire law can be repealed. But after more than 50 failed votes to repeal the ACA, repealing the tax alone might be the most they can do it. As for that $29 billion in lost revenue? It won’t likely get much congressional attention.

A tax cut for Oklahoma? Too bad it’s not affordable. TPC’s Norton Francis reviews Oklahoma tax cuts that are triggered by a budget gimmick. A rate reduction will go into effect since the  state’s new projection of Fiscal Year 2016 revenue exceeds its 2013 estimate of 2014 revenue. Yes, you read that correctly. Oklahoma compared two revenue forecasts, not actual collections. The new 5 percent rate will require $317 million in spending  cuts.  And due to falling revenues from sagging oil prices, the state  may need to make even deeper cuts. Norton concludes “It’s clear that lawmakers wanted the tax cut regardless of the budget implications. They could have at least been transparent about it.”

The Peach State’s transportation funding: It’s the pits. A new report from Georgia’s legislature pegs the state’s transportation funding gap at between $1 and 1.5 billion. Republicans acknowledge they may need to raise taxes to fill the hole. The report proposes a one-cent statewide sales tax that would generate $1.4 billion a year. It also suggests shuffling existing funds to pay for road repair—but a significant gap would remain.

Nine tax stories for 2015: Everything old is new again. TPC’s Howard Gleckman offers the by now familiar run-down. There’s the prospect of business tax reform (dim), and dynamic scoring (will it matter?). Then there’s the IRS and the Affordable Care Act (complicated and conflict-ridden). International taxes: Better cooperation and enforcement would be nice (if countries agree to adopt changes). Internet taxes — will states be able to tax internet access or collect sales tax on online purchases? There are state tax cuts to consider (desired, but thwarted by budget realities). There’s that poor (literally) Highway Trust Fund: Can you picture a GOP-controlled Congress raising the gasoline tax? Or passing a carbon tax? And finally, the story we all love to hate,“tax extenders:” It will likely remain the walking dead of budget-busting tax breaks, one year at a time.

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The post New Congress, New Rules, Old Obstacles appeared first on TaxVox.

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