Infrastructure

Biden Administration Floats Tax Increases to Pay for Infrastructure as Policy Focus Shifts to Economic Growth

The White House

The Biden administration is considering increasing the corporate tax rate and the individual rate for high earners as it deliberates how to structure its next major legislative initiative – a sprawling “Build Back Better” economic growth package that may cost far more than the $1.9 trillion coronavirus-relief bill enacted last week. (BGov, March 15 and Roundtable Weekly, March 12) 

Why It Matters: 

  • The first major tax increase since 1993 could be proposed as one method of funding Biden’s ambitious infrastructure plan. Heather Boushey, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers stated, “There is a long list of things that we need to invest in,” including “broadly defined” infrastructure, the power grid, and a plan to bolster child and elder care. (BGov and Bloomberg Television interview, March 15

  • Biden’s tax plan would aim to provide relief for middle-class households, including those in the $110,000-a-year income range, according to Bharat Ramamurti, deputy director of the White House National Economic Council. “The key here is that the president believes strongly that the biggest corporations and those folks who have done extremely well over the last several decades should pay a bit more,” Ramamurti said. (Bloomberg Television interview, March 16)
     
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) this week rejected any potential tax increases to fund President’s Biden infrastructure plan. (The Hill, March 16)
     
  • Democrats are considering using the budget reconciliation process to pass an infrastructure bill, the same process used to pass the pandemic relief bill in the Senate by a simple majority in the 50-50 Senate. Under normal budget rules, the support of at least 10 GOP senators would be needed to defeat a 60-vote filibuster. Democrats will only be able to use reconciliation for one more bill this year. (The Hill, March 15)

  • The enormous scope of the administration’s legislative goals may lead to the possible separation of their economic growth package into as many as three bills. (Politico Playbook, March 18) 

Congressional Legislation:

  • Expanding allowable investment opportunities for REITs could increase private sector infrastructure and help revitalize distressed retail businesses. The Roundtable-supported, bipartisan Retail Revitalization Actof 2021 (H.R. 840) – introduced Feb. 4 by House Ways and Means Members Brad Schneider (D-IL) and Darin Lahood (R- IL) – would modernize real estate investment trust tax provisions to permit REITs to invest equity in struggling commercial tenants that have been harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic. (News release, Feb. 4)

  • H.R. 840 is the focus of a March 16 Tax Notes article entitled, Modifying REIT Rules Could Aid Recovery and Infrastructure Plans.”

  • House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) has scheduled a March 22 hearing on the committee’s recently released Leading Infrastructure For Tomorrow’s (LIFT) America Act, which would provide more than $312 billion in funding for broad range of projects. (E&C news release, March 11 and Chairman’s Memorandum, March 18)

  • House E&C Committee Republicans released a clean energy and climate package this week in response to the E&C Democrats’ LIFT legislation. (E&C Republicans news release, March 15)

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) on March 18 introduced the BUILD GREEN Infrastructure and Jobs Act, a $500 billion proposal to shift U.S. transportation away from fossil fuels by 2050. 

What's Next:

  • More legislation is expected to be introduced that will focus on highways, mass transit and other surface transportation, as well as tax-related energy and infrastructure measures. House bills are expected from Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA).
     
  • A “by-the-mile” vehicle usage tax is also under consideration to fund transportation infrastructure projects. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is considering funding highway projects with a fee based on how many miles someone travels instead of how much gasoline they pump. Buttigieg has stated the administration will move swiftly to reauthorize the surface transportation highway bill, which is set to expire at the end of September. (BGov, March 15) 

  • The Roundtable is part of the Build by the 4th coalition, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which encourages the Biden Administration and the new Congress to pass a comprehensive infrastructure deal by Independence Day 2021. 

Infrastructure investment will be a focus of discussion between commercial real estate leaders and policymakers during The Spring Roundtable Meeting on April 20 in Washington, DC. 

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Energy Policy

Policymakers Considering Energy and Climate Provisions as Part of Infrastructure Package

San Diego

Congressional Committee leaders are gearing up energy and climate proposals as the Biden Administration assembles its plan for an infrastructure initiative to bolster the recovery of the pandemic-damaged economy.

What’s at Stake: 

  • The White House is considering including clean energy tax credits in a coronavirus recovery proposal, White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy said. “You can bet tax credits are a large part of that discussion.” (BGov, March 11.)

  • The scale and scope of energy and climate measures may make it difficult to attract Republican votes in the wake of the nearly $2 trillion pandemic aid package last week that received no GOP support.  
  • Top Democratic tax writers may differ on their approach to clean energy tax incentives that aim to achieve low-and zero-carbon energy targets. (CQ, March 15)
     
    • Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) is seeking to consolidate existing tax incentives.  In 2019, he proposed replacing 44 energy-related tax provisions with three credits: one for clean electricity, one for clean fuels, and one to promote greater energy efficiency. 
       
    • House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) is a leading cosponsor of House Democrats’ GREEN Act, which would expand and enhance existing tax benefits for clean energy and energy efficiency.  
         
  • The Roundtable is currently working with Democratic and Republican Members of the Ways and Means Committee to update and reintroduce a bipartisan proposal, the E-QUIP Act, to encourage energy efficient retrofits of existing commercial and residential rental buildings. (Roundtable Weekly, Dec. 11, 2020).
     
  • A House Energy and Commerce (E&C) hearing on March 18 focused on the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act (H.R. 1512).  The CLEAN Act includes provisions affecting building energy codes, energy benchmarking, and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) public company reporting on climate risk. The bill is not expected to advance far in the Senate. (Roundtable Weekly, March 5).

Regulation and Federal Funding:

  • A Climate Change Disclosures Request for Information issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on March 15 addresses a broad range of issues and legal considerations relevant to possible mandatory SEC requirements. The RFI has a 90-day comment window. 
  • Acting SEC Chair Allison Lee addressed the RFI this week, stating the agency will commence a number of new initiatives to address “… the risks and opportunities that climate and ESG [Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance] pose for investors, our financial system, and our economy.”
     
  • A March 17 letter led by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) urges President Biden to include robust federal funding for programs that promote energy efficiency as part of the administration’s upcoming budget proposal for fiscal year 2022.  Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is also a signatory on the letter. 
     
  • The letter states, “Increasing investment in energy efficiency programs within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) can deliver significant emissions reductions, grow jobs in the clean energy sector and provide savings to American consumers.”

  • Energy efficiency employment in the United States grew by 20% – nearly three times the rate of growth in the overall economy – in the five years leading up to 2020, and energy efficiency jobs are available in nearly every county in every state, according to the National Association of State Energy Officials.  The letter also notes that the pandemic and associated economic impacts have hit the energy efficiency sector especially hard, slowing progress and costing jobs, particularly for workers of color.

The Real Estate Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) continues to work with congressional policymakers, EPA and DOE on energy and climate issues of importance to commercial real estate. 

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Tax Policy

Broad Coalition Highlights Economic, Social, and Environmental Benefits of Like-Kind Exchanges

Atlanta clear skies

The Real Estate Roundtable, along with 30 other national real estate, housing, environmental, farming, ranching, forestry, and financial services-related organizations, wrote to key policymakers on March 16 to underscore the vital importance of real estate like-kind exchanges.

The letters to Treasury Secretary Yellen and the chairmen and ranking members of the congressional tax-writing committees underscore the many benefits of like-kind exchanges to the U.S. economy and the health of real estate markets. The letters also show how the exchanges improve the supply of housing, retirement security, environmental conservation and the preservation of family-owned farms and ranches. 

Why It Matters

  • Between 10-20 percent of all commercial real estate transactions involve a like-kind exchange.  The coalition letters describes how like-kind exchanges under section 1031 of the tax code helped stabilize property markets at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, and will continue to facilitate repurposing of real estate assets in the post-COVID economy.

  • The letters provide supporting data showing how like-kind exchanges allow businesses to grow by reinvesting gains on a tax-deferred basis in new and productive assets. 

  • Like-kind exchanges create a ladder of economic opportunity for minority-, veteran-, and women-owned businesses and cash-poor entrepreneurs that may lack access to traditional sources of financing, according to research referenced in the letters.

Groundbreaking Research:

  • The letters highlight original research by Professors David Ling (Univ. Fla.) and Milena Petrova (Syracuse U.) on the economic impact of like-kind exchanges.  The study commissioned by The Real Estate Roundtable and other organizations was published in two installments in the peer-reviewed Journal of Real Estate Literature here and here and more recently updated with current data.

  • The academic studies have found that exchanges spur capital expenditures, increase investment, create jobs for skilled tradesmen and others, reduce unnecessary economic risk, lower rents, support property values, and generate substantial state and local tax revenue.

  • Roughly 40 percent of like-kind exchanges involve rental housing.  The coalition emphasized in its letter that section 1031 is an important source of capital for affordable and workforce housing. Farmers and ranchers use like-kind exchanges to combine acreage, acquire higher-grade land, mitigate environmental impacts, and otherwise improve operations.  Land conservation organizations rely on exchanges to preserve open spaces for public use or environmental protection.

The Roundtable’s Tax Policy Advisory Committee (TPAC) will continue working to raise awareness of the role that like-kind exchanges play in supporting the health and stability of U.S. real estate and real estate markets. 

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