Legislative update: Conference agreement on highway bill

Conference agreement on highway bill

House and Senate negotiators today reached a bicameral, bipartisan compromise on a conference agreement for the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act”—a bill to extend authorization for spending from the Highway Trust Fund and other related funds through September 30, 2020. The conference agreement includes tax and spending changes to offset the expected $300+ billion cost of the legislation.

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The conference agreement [PDF 2.76 MB] would extend through September 30, 2022, a variety of highway-related taxes such as the taxes imposed upon gasoline, diesel fuel and kerosene, and certain tires. It also would extend the heavy vehicle use tax through September 30, 2023. It also contains a number of tax enforcement provisions very similar to those included in various versions of highway spending bills passed by the House and Senate earlier this year. 

Provisions in the conference agreement include:

  • Creation of a “Special Compliance Personnel Program Account” within Treasury to fund the hiring and training of additional IRS collections personnel 
  • Requirement for the Treasury Department to contract with qualified tax collection agencies for the collection of certain outstanding inactive tax receivables 
  • Authorization for the revocation or denial of passports to certain individuals without social security numbers or with “seriously delinquent” tax debts in excess of $50,000 
  • Repeal of a change enacted earlier this year to the automatic extension of the due date for filing Form 5500, Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan (effective for returns for tax years beginning after December 31, 2015) 
  • Annual adjustment of certain customs users fees for inflation using a consumer price index calculation (the first adjustment will occur on April 1, 2016)

What’s next?

The conference agreement reflects a compromise between previously passed House and Senate versions of a highway funding bill. Before becoming law, the agreement would need to be approved by both the House and Senate and signed into law by President Obama. 

The current spending authorization for the affected highway and related trust funds expires this Friday, December 4, 2015. It is possible that Congress may pass a very short-term extension of spending authorization in order to allow an additional few days to vote on the conference agreement.

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