The White House, Republican leaders of the U.S. House and Senate, and the chairs of the House and Senate tax-writing committees on September 27, 2017, released a “unified framework” for tax reform.
While lacking many details, the framework offers some insight into the possible provisions of a tax reform bill, the timing of which is still uncertain. Read an initial report about the framework: TaxNewsFlash
Below is a brief summary of key provisions and initial observations of the potential effects of the tax reform framework on banks and their customers.
Reducing the corporate tax rate to 20% continues to be a priority of congressional Republicans, but the sources of revenue to offset the cost of a 20% rate remains an enigma. Regardless of the ultimate rate, the transition to a reduced rate (i.e., phase-in or effective on enactment) would be important as banks revalue their deferred taxes to reflect the new rate.
The framework would retain the research and development (R&D) tax credit and the low income housing tax credit (LIHTC). The framework defers to congressional tax-writers consideration of other business tax credits, such as new markets tax credits, historic rehabilitation tax credits, and energy credits. Banks investing in these credits may be affected if these tax credits are ultimately repealed.
The impact would depend on how the transition rules are written. In the meantime, uncertainty about a possible repeal may also be reflected in current deal volume. Additionally, banks that receive Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) credits through these investments would need to find alternate investments to satisfy their CRA requirement.
The framework is silent on tax-exempt interest from municipal bonds.
Consistent with previous tax reform proposals, the framework would allow businesses to expense immediately the cost of depreciable assets, other than structures, purchased after September 27, 2017, for at least five years. The framework appears to indicate that the immediate expensing provision would sunset after five years, but leaves the details to congressional tax-writers.
Allowing companies to expense the cost of capital assets is intended to stimulate capital expenditures, but may also have unintended consequences that could result in a greater divergence between federal and state taxable income.
While the framework explicitly references a limitation for net interest expense deductions for C corporations, there is no specific guidance on how this limitation might apply to banks. To the extent the rules are applied on a consolidated group basis, the direct impact on banks may be limited, as they are unlikely to have net interest expense.
The details of this rule warrant close attention:
A net interest expense limitation could also have a significant effect on lending and leasing operations.
The framework adopts a territorial tax regime in which income earned and taxed in foreign jurisdictions would be exempt from U.S. taxation when returned to the United States as a dividend, provided the U.S. corporation owns at least 10% of the foreign subsidiary. To transition to the new system, the framework would treat accumulated foreign earnings as repatriated. Cash and cash equivalents would be taxed at higher rates than illiquid assets, but the rates are not specified. Payment of the tax liability would be spread over multiple years. The framework does not propose a border adjusted tax as described in the House “blueprint.”
The framework would eliminate most itemized deductions, including the deduction for state and local taxes paid, in favor of an increased standard deduction. While retaining the deductions for home mortgage interest and charitable contributions may be significant, the elimination of the other itemized deductions would likely result in fewer taxpayers choosing to itemize and therefore would effectively eliminate the benefit of retaining such deductions.
The framework would repeal estate and generation-skipping taxes.
The framework states that industry specific tax regimes would be modernized to “better reflect economic reality” and “provide little opportunity for tax avoidance.” While no specific tax regimes are named, this statement could suggest consideration of the mark-to-market rules for derivatives that were provided in the Modernization of Derivatives Act re-released by Senator Wyden last May.
Read the unified framework for tax reform [PDF 172 KB]
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Liz L’Hommedieu | +1 (614) 249-1849 | firstname.lastname@example.org
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