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House Ways and Means Democrats Release Legislative Framework, Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden Will Pursue Capital Gains Changes

  • January 15, 2021

Wyden and Neal

Congressional tax-writing committees this week began unveiling their agendas for the 117th Congress, with Democrats poised to control the majority in the both House and Senate. [Photo: Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), left, and House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA), right]

  • In the House, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) on Jan. 11 released a 14-page legislative framework describes an agenda to address health and economic inequities in the United States, particularly those rooted in racial disparities. (Ways & Means news release, Jan 11)
  • The framework, entitled “A Bold Vision for a Legislative Path Toward Health and Economic Equity,” lays out the pillars and policy priorities that will steer the committee’s work in the new Congress.  The economic proposals focus on economic justice for workers, economic justice for children and families, retirement security, investment in communities, and environmental justice.
  • Specific proposals in the legislative framework include increasing the supply of affordable housing through the low-income housing tax credit; providing enhanced bond incentives to state and local governments to address environmental stressors; and expanding tax credits for families with children, child care expenses, higher education costs, and more.  
  • Chairman Neal writes in his foreword, “The framework we present here is Ways and Means Committee Democrats’ plan to make our nation a more just and equitable place. Some actions we can pursue almost immediately. Other advancements may take longer to become law. But inaction is not an option. Complacency cannot be tolerated.”

Senate Finance Committee

In the Senate, incoming Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) outlined his tax agenda during a Jan. 13 call with reporters, including plans to move forward with an increase in the corporate tax rate and major changes in the taxation of individual capital gains.

  • Wyden presented and released a detailed white paper outlining his plan to reform the taxation of capital gains in September, 2019.  (News Conference Video, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Sept. 12, 2019)
  • His proposal, entitled “Treat Wealth Like Wages,” would raise the top tax rate on capital gains (currently 20%) and create parity with the tax rate on wages and other ordinary income.  In addition, his plan would impose annual mark-to-market taxation of capital assets for taxpayers above certain income thresholds.  Both proposals represent dramatic departures from existing tax law. 
  • During this week’s press call, Wyden said, “If you are a nurse in America taking care of COVID patients, you don't get to defer paying your taxes. If you're a billionaire, you can defer, defer and defer some more and then pretty much never pay any taxes at all.” 
  • A mark-to-mark system would require taxpayers to pay tax on the annual appreciation of capital assets – regardless of whether the property has been sold and cash is available to pay the levy – or impose a “look-back charge” on illiquid assets when a sale occurs or certain revaluation events take place. It could greatly diminish the incentive to start a busines or invest in any asset with a long, productive life. Such a dramatic change in the basic rules for how capital is taxed could have severe unintended consequences for future economic growth and job creation. ( Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 13, 2019)
  • Wyden added he would also pursue raising the current 21% corporate tax rate and change the tax treatment of carried interest.
  • Any tax changes in the Senate will have to advance through a 50-50 chamber. How committees will work through their arrangements and procedures has yet to be determined by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) 
  • More details related to Senate and House leadership positions and their respective committees can be found on JDSupra’s “Welcome to the 117th Congress” (Jan. 8).

Sen. Ron Wyden is scheduled to speak with Roundtable members at the organiation’s upcoming State of the Industry business meeting on Jan. 26. Additionally, The Roundtable’s Tax Policy Advisory Committee meeting will address the 117th Congress’ tax agenda on Jan. 27 (all virtual).

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