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October 5, 2018

TAX POLICY – PASS-THROUGHS
Roundtable Comment Letter Urges Treasury to Simplify, Streamline New Pass-Through Deduction Regulations

TAX POLICY – QUALIFIED IMPROVEMENT PROPERTY
Senate Democrats and House Republicans Urge Tax Policy Correction for Real Estate Improvements’ Cost Recovery Period

HOMELAND SECURITY
Roundtable Calls for Congress to Pass Cybersecurity Bill, Increase Digital Competitiveness


TAX POLICY – PASS-THROUGHS

Roundtable Comment Letter Urges Treasury to Simplify, Streamline New Pass-Through Deduction Regulations

The Real Estate Roundtable on Monday submitted detailed recommendations to the Treasury Department on simplifying and streamlining  the new 20 percent tax deduction for pass-through businesses. (Roundtable letter, Oct. 1)

   2018-10-01 image x200 PassThrough letter

The  Real Estate Roundtable on Monday submitted detailed recommendations to the Treasury Department on simplifying and streamlining  the new 20 percent tax deduction for pass-through businesses. (Roundtable letter, Oct. 1)

  • Passed as part of last year's tax overhaul, the deduction can reduce the top tax rate on qualifying pass-through income, including rental income, to 29.6 percent.  Once it is fully implemented, section 199A will be a powerful incentive for capital investment and job growth.

  • The comment letter from Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer suggests four major simplifications that would provide greater certainty, lessen the need for wasteful restructuring, and reduce taxpayer-government controversies.   

 Trade or business definition 
The final regulations should clarify that rental income from real property held for the production of rents will be considered a trade or business for purposes of section 199A;

Aggregation 
The final regulations should allow taxpayers to treat all qualifying real estate rental activities, whether held directly or through a pass-through entity, as if held in a single “trade or business” for purposes of section 199A;

Non-recognition transactions
When assets with associated unadjusted basis immediately after acquisition (UBIA) are transferred in a non-recognition transaction (such as a like-kind exchange or the contribution or distribution of assets involving a partnership or S corporation), the general rule should be that the UBIA of an asset (and its duration) carries over; and

Separating trades and businesses
The final regulations should provide rules to help taxpayers ascertain when multiple activities (including multiple activities conducted in a single entity) constitute discrete trades or businesses.

  • With a few exceptions, last year's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act limited the pass-through deduction to businesses with employees or capital-intensive businesses that invest in long-lived (i.e., depreciable) assets, including real estate.  This so-called wage/capital limitation applies to partnerships, S corporations, and sole proprietorships, but does not apply to ordinary REIT dividends and income from publicly traded partnerships.

  • During the tax reform debate, The Roundtable's Tax Policy Advisory Committee (TPAC) formed a task force to review the regulations, analyze their impact on real estate investment and jobs, and craft specific recommendations for policymakers.

  • The pass-through deduction (section 199A) was a key element of Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer's testimony before the Senate Finance Committee shortly before lawmakers released the first version of the proposal in the fall of 2017.   (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 22, 2017)

TPAC will continue to offer insight to Treasury officials and congressional tax-writing committees before final regulations are expected by the end of the year.   

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TAX POLICY – QUALIFIED IMPROVEMENT PROPERTY

Senate Democrats and House Republicans Urge Tax Policy Correction for Real Estate Improvements’ Cost Recovery Period   

Two recent letters – one from 16 Democratic Senators to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the other from 58 House Republicans to GOP leadership – urge policymakers to fix an unintentional drafting mistake in last year’s tax overhaul that mistakenly increased the cost recovery period for qualified improvement property (QIP).  (House Letter, Oct 2 and Senate Letter, Sept 24) 

Leasehold improvements _1246

The tax policy drafting error  currently affects leasehold improvements, expenditures made to improve common spaces in shopping centers and office buildings, and other interior improvements to nonresidential structures.

  • The drafting error in the tax law has resulted in a significantly longer 39-year cost recovery period for new, qualified nonresidential interior improvements.  The original intent of Congress was to allow the immediate expensing of QIP – or provide a 20-year recovery period in the case of taxpayers electing out of new limitations on the deductibility of business interest.  

  • The mistake currently affects leasehold improvements, expenditures made to improve common spaces in shopping centers and office buildings, and other interior improvements to nonresidential structures.  The current, longer cost recovery period effectively increases the after-tax cost of upgrading and improving commercial real estate.  ("Correcting the Drafting Error Involving the Expensing of Qualified Improvement Property" – The Tax Foundation , May 30)     

  • In Monday's joint letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX), 58 House Republican members state, "While they wait for Congress to act to correct this error, these businesses are forgoing renovations, halting plans to revitalize declining malls, and placing safety improvements on hold.  Not only does this hurt restaurants and retailers, but also the businesses involved in the planning and renovations, and ultimately our communities.  

  • This week's House letter urges GOP leadership to address the QIP investment drafting error via legislation, while also recommending that Treasury should issue interim guidance while refraining from enforcing the drafting error. 
     Capiitol Dome rainy x225 crop Fall 2015 RT 246

    Congress could address the issue during the lame duck congressional session between the mid-term election and January.



  • In the Sept. 24 joint letter to Secretary Mnuchin, 16 Senate Democrats address the need for a QIP correction, stating: "Improper implementation of this portion of the 2017 law would cause disruption to a wide range of industries, including the nation's retail, restaurant and commercial property industries. Given this, and the potential for considerable harm to local economies, we believe it would be prudent for Treasury to address this issue and its interpretation through guidance." 

  • The Real Estate Roundtable and a broad-based business coalition urged Secretary Mnuchin in August to issue guidance clarifying certain provisions included in tax overhaul legislation enacted last year – including the cost recovery period for qualified improvement property. (Coalition letter, Aug. 22) 

  • Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer stated, "In 2015, Congress voted overwhelmingly to permanently extend the 15-year recovery period for certain property improvements.  By passing tax reform, Congress intended to consolidate those changes.  Treasury should now use its authority to provide taxpayers with relief until a technical corrections bill is enacted.  Treasury guidance will remove taxpayer uncertainty, unlock investment, and spur job-creating property upgrades and renovations."  (Roundtable Weekly, Aug. 24)

Congress could address the issue during the lame duck congressional session between the mid-term election and January. A number of tax issues are outstanding, including tax reform technical corrections and expired tax provisions.

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HOMELAND SECURITY

Roundtable Calls for Congress to Pass Cyber Security Bill, Increase Digital Competitiveness

The bipartisan Cyber Diplomacy Act (H.R. 3776) will advance America’s public and private efforts to safeguard cyberspace and enhance the nation’s economic competitiveness in a global digital economy.  That is the message sent by The Roundtable, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and five other national trade organizations in a joint letter last week to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and all other U.S. Senators. (Joint Letter, Sept. 26)

2018-09-26 image x200 Cypersecurity letter

The Roundtable and six other national trade organizations sent a Sept. 26 joint letter on cybersecurity policy to all members of the U.S. Senate. (Joint Letter)

  • The bill – introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) – passed the House in January, was reported out of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in June and is currently under consideration by the Senate.

  • H.R. 3776 would task the State Department with establishing a unified Office for Cyberspace and Digital Economy, which would consolidate efforts relating to international cybersecurity, internet access, internet freedom, digital economy, cybercrime, deterrence, and international responses to cyber threats.  (The Washington Times, Sept. 27)

  • The Sept. 26 joint letter states, “We believe that a focused, centralized, and appropriately placed office led by an ambassador-rank official would aid U.S. cybersecurity and digital economy efforts. We believe that enactment of this bill would send a powerful message that the U.S. intends to preserve and protect a secure, reliable, and open internet.” 

  • The cybersecurity issue is a key focus of The Roundtable’s Homeland Security Task Force (HSTF), which encourages measures to address the global cyber threat and effective information sharing..

The Roundtable’s Homeland Security Task Force will discuss cyber security and other issues affecting real estate during its upcoming meetings at FBI offices in New York (Oct. 18) and Washington, DC (Nov. 13).

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For questions about Roundtable Weekly, please contact The Roundtable's Scott Sherwood at rweekly@rer.org or (202) 639-8400.

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