An attempt to sandbag Death Tax repeal

Posted on April, 20 2017, 16:03


Digging into a great bowl of spaghetti to get to the meat balls involves going through a lot of noodles.  Digging into the legislative tureen means handling a great deal of a different kind of noodles -- rigmarole, procedures and people -- all of which can interfere with the meat of legislative success.
 
I've spoken about scoring the Death Tax repeal proposals.  The score is a measure of how a given tax bill would increase or decrease federal revenues.  This past week, we found that there is a strong possibility that the chief scorer of tax bills has decided to include the proposal of the Obama Treasury Department to change long-established methods of restructuring assets as if it were adopted.  It has not been adopted but if it were, it could effectively double the estate tax liabilities of thousands of successful businessmen, farmers and entrepreneurs.  The good news is that on January 20th the Trump White House froze that proposal and hundreds of others pending in the Obama bureaucracy. 
 
It now seems that the score of the Death Tax repeal may be based on an exceptional assumption that the Obama Treasury proposal is or will be in force.  In other words, if the Treasury proposal would double the revenues from the Death Tax, then repeal of the Death Tax would result in doubling the "cost" of repeal. 
 
According to established rules, the score can only be based on current law, not what is proposed or what some opponent of Death Tax repeal wants it to be.
 
We are aggressively seeking to have the new Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, simply order his staff to withdraw the proposal regarding asset restructuring.
 
And, we are working on an alternative:  working with our friends in Congress to rein-in the tax-scorers who may have gone outside their normal rules.  They are overseen by Congressmen and Senators who serve on the Joint Committee on Taxation, Chaired by Congressman Kevin Brady and Senator Orin Hatch.  As one might expect, we are working to alert them and get them involved.
 
We're always concerned about priorities -- whether or not we can meet a deadline, get things done when they need to be done and what opportunities are open today that might not be available tomorrow.  A key issue is timing.  When will the House of Representatives take up a tax bill?  I have reported that it was likely that taxes would be addressed in September.  The credibility of that or any prediction of a date for the House to consider taxes has declined.  Today it is probably fair to say that the men and women who must make a decision on a date have not done so and don't feel that a decision can yet be made.
 
The fact that the stock market has stopped rising and that other economic indicators are faltering tells us that the world feels that the U.S. economy is not going to rebound soon because of good tax reform.  The enthusiasm we saw in January, February and March has waned.  A pro-growth tax reform bill has been put off.  It is a great loss to the nation as every week that goes by without or antiquated tax code means lost wealth and opportunity.
 
Can President Trump regain this lost momentum?  I think it is possible, but only with great energy and dedication.  There are people working behind the scenes on this.  Let's hope they're successful.  We will keep you informed.