Roundtable Weekly - March 22, 2019

Infrastructure

Roundtable Recommends Policies to Spur Infrastructure Investment and Economic Growth

Repealing FIRPTA, streamlining permit procedures and passing infrastructure financing measures will help spur infrastructure improvements and contribute to economic growth, according to recommendations submitted this week by The Real Estate Roundtable to the House Ways and Means Committee.  (Roundtable Statement for the Record)

Repealing FIRPTA, streamlining permit procedures and passing infrastructure financing measures will help spur infrastructure improvements and contribute to economic growth, according to recommendations submitted this week by The Real Estate Roundtable to the House Ways and Means Committee.  (Roundtable Statement for the Record)

The Roundtable recommendations include the following:  

  • Unlocking private capital by repealing the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA).  FIRPTA imposes a discriminatory layer of capital gains tax on foreign investment—a tax burden that does not apply to any other asset class.  Repealing FIRPTA would serve as a market-driven catalyst to finance improvements in our nation’s infrastructure.
  • Streamlining the permitting process.  A report by the nonprofit organization Common Good estimates that a six-year delay in starting construction on public projects costs the nation more than $3.7 trillion.  Permit delays dampen private sector investment and add to the overall costs of infrastructure projects. 
  • Increasing the federal gas “user fee” in a responsible and sustainable manner.  The gas user fee (18.4-cents a gallon) that capitalizes the Highway Trust Fund has not been raised since 1993.  The Roundtable supports proposals to sustain the HTF by increasing the user fee by five cents a year for the next five years, and indexing it to inflation thereafter.
  • Revising IRS “volume caps” and other limitations on private-activity bonds (PABs).  Congress should broaden availability of these tax-exempt municipal bonding tools. Bipartisan measures that advance PAB financing, including the Move America Act (H.R. 1508), the Public Buildings Renewal Act ( H.R. 1251), and the BUILD Act  (S. 352), warrant close analysis.   
  • Improving the Transportation Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan program through measures such as the RAPID Act (S. 353).  Congress should consider establishing a similar credit enhancement program to encourage public-private partnerships to help repair an aging pipeline grid and remediate gas leaks that impact climate change. 

DeBoer discussed the role of public-private partnerships to develop infrastructure projects on CNBC’s Squawk Box in June 2017.  “There’s a lot of capital that wants to invest in infrastructure,” DeBoer said.  (Roundtable Weekly, June 9, 2017).  

Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) has indicated he intends for his committee to consider an infrastructure bill this spring.

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Democrats Reintroduce Legislation to Tax Carried Interest At Ordinary Income Rate

Legislation to reform the taxation of carried interest was introduced on March 13 by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and House Ways and Means Committee member Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ).  (News releasesBaldwin and Pascrell)

Legislation to reform the taxation of carried interest was introduced on March 13 by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and House Ways and Means Committee member Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ). 

  • The Carried Interest Fairness Act of 2019 would reverse decades of partnership tax law by characterizing profits earned through certain investment partnerships as ordinary income.  The legislation would recast capital gains earned by some partners—including gain associated with the sale of appreciated real estate—as income taxable at the maximum individual rate.  The current top capital gains rate is 20 percent and the top tax rate on ordinary income is 37 percent.  
  • Similar legislation was introduced in the 115th Congress.  The 2017 tax overhaul included a change to carried interest taxation, increasing the length of time from one to three years that partners with a carried interest must hold their investment to qualify for long-term capitals gains treatment. (The Hill, March 13)
  • The Democrats’ carried interest bill is under consideration by congressional tax-writing committees as a possible revenue offset for separate legislation to extend temporary tax breaks that lapsed on Jan. 1, 2018.  According to one press report, when asked whether carried interest could be an offset for his tax bill, House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) responded, “I think you're on the right track."  (CQ password-protected, March 14)

The Real Estate Roundtable opposes proposals such as the Carried Interest Fairness Act.  General partners earning a carried interest in a real estate partnership bear significant risks beyond direct capital contributions.  These risks can include funding predevelopment costs, guaranteeing construction budgets and financing, and exposure to potential litigation over countless possibilities. 

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Roundtable’s DeBoer Profiles Industry Policy Agenda, Including TRIA, Infrastructure, FIRPTA

Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer yesterday discussed the organization’s national policy priorities in the current Congress with Roundtable Board Member Holly Neber (CEO, AEI Consultants and President, CREW Network) during the 2019 Connect Los Angeles conference.  (Watch video of DeBoer’s discussion, March 21)

RER President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer yesterday discussed the organization’s national policy priorities in the current Congress with Roundtable Board Member Holly Neber during the 2019 Connect Los Angeles conference 

The policy discussion, “What’s Next!? What’s Happening in Washington and What Does it Mean for Your Business?” explored topics such as terrorism, infrastructure, foreign investment and tax reform before a standing-room only crowd of more than 500. (Video, LA Connect)

  • DeBoer profiled several compelling policy issues of importance to commercial real estate, including terrorism risk insurance.  DeBoer explained, “… TRIA, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, put in place after 9-11 because the direct insurance industry and the resinsurance industry said they couldn’t measure and predict a terrorism attack.  If they can’t measure and predict it, they can’t offer the product.  If they can’t offer the product, businesses can’t get all-risk insurance.  If you can’t get all-risk insurance, you can’t get financing.  So this issue of TRIA being extended … since being in place since 2002, is very important to liquidity. It’s very important to market stability.  And we want to get it extended by the end of this Congress, by the end of 2020.”    
  •  TRIA was enacted in 2002 and was extended in 2005, 2007 and 2015. Without Congressional reauthorization, the program will expire on December 31, 2020.
  • DeBoer also addressed the need for Congress to pass legislation that will address infrastructure improvements on a national level.  "We need to recognize that we are in a new transportation revolution.  And it’s changing and we’re going to change in the next 10, 15 years; the way we access our infrastructure.  We want to get this infrastructure bill done.  We want to get it as broad as possible.  We want to bring in as much private capital as we can," DeBoer said, emphasizing that public-private partnerships can play a major role in infrastructure improvement projects.  (see Infrastructure story above)
  • He also discussed tax policy priorities, including repeal of the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA) and recently introduced legislation that would change taxation of carried interest (see Tax Policy story above).

The Roundtable released its 2019 National Policy Agenda during its January State of the Industry Meeting in Washington (Roundtable Weekly, Feb. 1).  

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