Policy Landscape

Infrastructure Negotiations Continue as Congress Extends Government Funding to Dec. 3; Debt Ceiling Deadline Looms

U.S. Capitol

Intense negotiations among moderate and progressive Democrats on the scope and cost of the $3.5 trillion “human” infrastructure package continued this week, delaying a vote yesterday on the $1 trillion bipartisan “physical” infrastructure bill. House progressives have insisted they will not vote for the bipartisan bill until Senate centrists commit to support a multitrillion-dollar social benefits package. 

Moderates in the Balance 

  • President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) this week engaged moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) in hopes of sealing the support of all 50 Senate Democrats on the “human” infrastructure package. That bill’s passage depends on the budget reconciliation process to bypass Republican opposition. (Reuters, Sept. 28)

  • Sen. Manchin this week released a document indicating the terms for his potential support of the reconciliation package. Manchin’s conditions, provided to Schumer on July 28, cite a topline cost of $1.5 billion for spending on social programs and climate change – $2 trillion less than the package that Democratic progressives have agreed to support.  (Politico, Sept. 30)

  • The Manchin document included proposals to raise the corporate tax rate to 25% and increase the top tax rate on ordinary income to 39.6%. It also lists as an offset condition to “end carried interest,” raise the capital gains tax rate to 28 percent, and notes that “any revenue exceeding $1.5 trillion” should be used to reduce the national deficit. 

  • Tax issues affecting CRE in the “human” infrastructure package are summarized in The Roundtable's "Pass-Through Businesses and the Reconciliation Bill" document. 

  • White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki yesterday said, "A great deal of progress has been made this week, and we are closer to an agreement than ever. But we are not there yet, and so, we will need some additional time to finish the work.”  (White House Statement, Sept. 30) 

CR and Debt Ceiling 

Treasury Department

  • Meanwhile, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) yesterday to fund the government through Dec. 3. President Biden signed the bill hours before a partial federal shutdown was scheduled to take effect. (BGov and CQ, Oct 1)

  • The flurry of activity in Washington this week also included action on the debt ceiling. Legislation that would suspend the nation's debt limit until December 2022 passed the House on Sept. 29 but is expected to fail in the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to advance the bill in the 50-50 upper chamber. Republicans oppose the measure, insisting that Democrats should suspend the debt ceiling through the budget reconciliation process, which requires 50 votes. (CNBC, Sept. 29)
Treasury Secretary Janel Yellen testifying before Congress
  • The debt ceiling must be suspended by Oct. 18 to avoid the government from defaulting on its financial obligations, according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s Sept. 28 testimony before the Senate Banking Committee.

  • Unless Congress increases the government’s authority to borrow more, "It would be disastrous for the American economy, for global financial markets, and for millions of families and workers," Yellen said. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell also testified, supporting Yellen’s view about the catastrophic economic consequences if the government were to default. (AP, Sept. 28)

The potential impact of infrastructure policy proposals on commercial real estate markets, employment and investment in communities Washington will be the focus of discussion during The Roundtable’s Fall Meeting on Oct 5.

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Tax Policy

Roundtable Encouraging Congress to Ensure Fair Treatment of Pass-Through Businesses in Final Reconciliation Bill

House Ways and Means Committee graphic


As negotiations continue on a multi-trillion reconciliation bill, The Real Estate Roundtable is urging lawmakers to ensure that any final agreement on tax changes treats pass-through businesses fairly and equitably.

Why It Matters

  • The reconciliation bill approved by the House Ways and Means Committee excluded several real estate-related tax proposals put forward by the Biden administration that could cause unnecessary harm to job creation, real estate values, and local communities that rely on property tax revenue. These proposals included restrictions on like-kind exchanges, repealing the step-up in basis of assets at death, and tax parity between ordinary income and capital gains. (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 17)

  • At the same time, through the combination of several, independent tax changes aimed at upper-income taxpayers, the current reconciliation bill in the House would raise the top marginal income tax rate on many pass-through business owners from 29.6% today to 46.4% (a 57% increase)

Contact Congress

  • The Roundtable believes this level of increase on pass-through businesses was unintended by Members of Congress and could undercut the bill’s own objectives of stimulating job growth, improving housing availability, and promoting investment in economically struggling communities, among other priorities.

  • See The Roundtable's detailed summary on "Pass-Through Businesses and the Reconciliation Bill." 

  • “Small and closely held businesses are the principal drivers of job growth and entrepreneurial activity in our economy.  The increase in the tax burden on pass-through businesses is disproportionately large relative to the tax changes for large, multinational corporations. The bill would create a historically high differential in the tax rates between pass-throughs and C corps and could put pass-through businesses at a competitive disadvantage in the economy. We do not believe this was the intent of the bill drafters,” said Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer.  

  • The dramatic increase in the pass-through tax rate results in part from capping the 20% deduction on pass-through business income (section 199A).  Other changes include increasing the top tax rate on ordinary income from 37 to 39.6 percent, expanding the scope of the 3.8% tax on net investment income, and imposing a 3% surtax on incomes above $5 million.
     
  • As currently proposed, the rate differential between pass-throughs (46.4%) and C corps (26.5%) would be 20 percentage points, more than twice the level of any period over the last four decades. Real estate partnerships constitute half of the four million partnerships in the United States.

Roundtable members and others are encouraged to reach out to their Representatives and contact their Senators to urge them to preserve the 20% deduction for pass-through business income (section 199A), which is directly tied to hiring workers and investing in capital equipment and property.  Modest adjustments in the legislation would ensure that pass-through businesses will continue contributing to economic growth, innovation, and job creation. Additional information and talking points can be found here.  

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ESG Reporting

SEC Issues Guidance on Climate Risk Disclosures

SEC logo - image

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued non-binding guidance on Sept. 22  on how companies within its jurisdiction should disclose risks related to climate change under current standards. The guidance comes as the SEC is preparing proposed regulations – expected by early next year – on anticipated climate reporting mandates that will likely impact all issuers of securities, including real estate companies. 

Why It Matters 

  • The Sept. 22 guidance amplifies the Commission’s 2010 Climate Change Guidance. It explains that companies should include in their formal SEC filings the same kinds of climate and ESG-related disclosures that they provide in their annual corporate social responsibility reports.
     
  • The latest guidance advises companies to disclose information (deemed to be “material”) on topics such as:

    • Whether climate-related local, state, or federal laws or regulations – or international accords – impact the company’s finances or operations;

    • Past or future capital expenditures for “climate-related projects”;

    • Increased demands for renewable energy generation and transmission;

    • Reputational risks from corporate operations that produce greenhouse gas emissions;

    • Whether floods, fires, hurricanes, and other “extreme weather events” affect thye company; and

    • Purchases or sales of carbon offsets or credits. 

Guidance Portends New Rule

SEC Chairman Gary Gensler
  • The Sept. 22 guidance portends a proposed rule from the Commission that will likely lead to mandated climate change disclosures.

  • SEC Chair Gary Gensler, above, remarked on Sept. 22 that its proposed rule on climate disclosures will be released by early 2022. A proposed rule would then kick-off a process for public comments from industry stakeholders.
     
  • Earlier this year, the Commission inquired about what kinds of updated climate and ESG-related information may be “material” to investors – and whether such information should be included in annual reports, proxy statements, and other SEC filings. (SEC’s March 15, 2021 “Public Statement” welcoming input on climate change disclosures.) 
  • The Real Estate Roundtable responded in June to the SEC’s “pre-rulemaking” statement.  The Roundtable developed its comments  in close coordination with Nareit, and recommends a “principles-based” approach to corporate climate risk disclosures as opposed to a prescriptive “one size fits all” reporting mandate. (Roundtable Weekly, June 11, 2021) 

A final rule from the SEC on climate risk reporting could be issued by the end of 2022, after conclusion of the public comment process on any forthcoming proposal. 

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