Senate, House Bills Introduced to Spur Workforce Housing Development
Bills introduced yesterday in the Senate and House would create a new tax incentive aimed at increasing the supply of moderate-income rental housing. The legislation seeks to expand the construction and rehabilitation of housing for middle-class families and young people starting their careers, while enabling workers to live in communities where they are employed. (Senate Finance Committee news release and bill summary, Dec. 7)
Workforce Housing Tax Credit
Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, (D-OR) and Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AL), along with Reps. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Mike Carey (R-OH), introduced the bipartisan Workforce Housing Tax Credit (WHTC) Act to build on the successful Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) by enabling state housing agencies to issue tax credits to developers, which would subsequently be sold to investors. (1-page Senate Finance committee summary and WHTCbill text)
WHTC credits could be used to build affordable housing for tenants between 60% and 100% of area median income, or transferred to LIHTC for tenants generally below 60% of area median income. (Congressional Research Service summary of the LIHTC, April 26)
State housing finance agencies could allocate WHTC credits to developers through a competitive process. The tax credits could also be provided to developers with a 15-year compliance period and 30-year extended commitment. (Committee summary)
The Roundtable strongly supports the WHTC. Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer stated, “Tax policy should support and encourage private sector investment that boosts the supply of affordable and workforce housing. The Workforce Housing Tax Credit Act would build on time-tested tax incentives like the low-income housing tax credit and further facilitate the conversion of underutilized, existing buildings to housing. We welcome this positive step forward for our nation’s housing supply.”
The Roundtable’s Real Estate Capital Policy Advisory Committee (RECPAC) has formed an Affordable Housing Working Group, which is working with the Research Committee to develop proposals on expanding the nation’s housing infrastructure.
# # #
Taxation of Unrealized Gains is Focus of Senate Democratic Bill and Supreme Court Case
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), above, and 15 of his Senate colleagues recently introduced the Billionaires Income Tax Act (S.3367), which would tax the appreciation of wealthy individuals’ assets. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Moore v. United States, a case challenging the federal government’s authority to tax unrealized gains under the 16th Amendment.
Billionaires Income Tax Act (BITA)
Under BITA, tradable, liquid assets would be marked-to-market and taxed annually on their appreciation, while illiquid assets would be subject to a “deferral recapture” tax when sold—or if certain other currently nontaxable events occur, such as death, a transfer to a trust, or a like-kind exchange. (One-page summary; section-by-section summary). (CQ, Nov. 30)
As drafted, the bill would apply to taxpayers with more than $100 million in annual income or more than $1 billion in assets for at least three consecutive years. (Tax Notes, Nov. 30).
The legislation is not limited to future appreciation of assets. It would reach back in time and apply the tax to accumulated, unrealized gains at the time of enactment. The tax on built-in gains could be paid over a five-year period. Mark-to-market losses could be carried back for three years and applied against taxable market-to-market gains.
The appreciation of partnership assets (including built-in gains) and gains or losses from partnership transactions would flow through and taken into account at the partner level.
Related legislation was introduced in the House by Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Don Beyer (D-VA).
Roundtable Position and Outlook
Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer said, “Taxes rarely remain targeted, and like the income tax, this targeted proposal could be revised and expanded over time to apply to everyone. Moreover, taxing unrealized gains would upend over 100 years of federal taxation, require an unprecedented IRS intrusion into household finances, and create unknown and potentially unintended consequences at a time of economic uncertainty. Deferring the taxation of gains until an asset is sold supports entrepreneurs while encouraging the type of patient, long-term investing and productive risk-taking that drives our economy forward.”
In the last Congress, efforts to enact a mark-to-market regime were unsuccessful when they ran into resistance from moderate Democrats. Sen. Wyden (D-OR) acknowledged that his bill, which lacks bipartisan support, would not be part of any year-end tax legislation. (CQ, Nov. 30)
Moore v. United States
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Moore v. United States, which challenges the federal government’s constitutional authority to tax unrealized income.
The petitioners in Moore argue that the mandatory repatriation tax in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act exceeds Congress’s authority under the 16th Amendment to lay and collect taxes on incomes. They argue that because the tax is based on the accumulated, undistributed earnings of a foreign corporation, there is no income realization event for the Moores, who are a non-controlling minority shareholder of the corporation. (Roundtable Weekly, Oct.13)
Depending on the outcome and the scope of the decision, the Moore case could have implications for other forms of taxing unrealized gains, such as the appreciated value of real estate and other assets directly owned by a taxpayer.
A majority of the justices signaled they are hesitant to weigh into the broader debate of how to define income for tax purposes. A decision in Moore is not expected until June 2024. (USA Today and PoliticoPro, Dec. 5 | Tax Foundation, Aug. 30)
# # #
GAO Reports All Federal Agencies at Less Than 50 Percent Occupancy
More than half of the federal workforce is not working in their agency offices, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) released a list this week based on the GAO data that shows federal space utilization percentages range from a low of 7% to 49% with most agencies using less than 30%. (Agency list | Sen. Ernst news release | DailyMail, Dec. 6)
Federal Employees’ Return to Office
The GAO statistics released by Sen. Ernst, the Ranking Member of the Senate Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee, covers 24 agencies for one week between January and March 2023. Sen. Ernst told Federal News Network this week that she is pushing the federal government to get workers back to their offices or sell their unused space.
In August, Ernst demanded investigations into federal departments and agencies to determine the impact of telework on the delivery and response times of government services. That same month, White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients directed cabinet officials to increase the return of federal employees to their offices. (Federal News Network, Nov. 30 | (Government Executive, Aug. 7 | Roundtable Weekly, Aug. 11)
Since the pandemic, Congress has held multiple hearings and introduced legislation in both the House and Senate about the government’s remote work policies. (Roundtable Weekly, Dec. 1)
The General Services Administration’s (GSA) Robin Carnahan recently told the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability that her agency sees an opportunity to reduce the government’s real-estate footprint by up to 30% in the coming years. (Federal News Network, Nov. 14)
RER Chair John Fish (Chairman & CEO, Suffolk), above, expressed the industry’s concern about government employees’ reluctant return to their offices in last week’s Wall Street Journal. “Other parts of the country with large federal workforces are also struggling to bring back workers. Whether you’re talking about downtown Boston, or Denver or Northern Virginia, occupancy is down substantially,” said Fish. (WSJ, Nov. 28)
Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer has consistently emphasized that federal policies promoting remote work undermine the health of cities, local tax bases, and small businesses. The Real Estate Roundtable has urged President Biden and national policymakers to end government policies that encourage remote working arrangements for federal employees. (RER letter to President Biden, Dec. 2022; RER letter to Senate, April 2023)
# # #
U.S. Joins Global Push to Slash Building Emissions
The United States joined China, the UK, and the larger European Union this week in an international initiative to accelerate the buildings sector’s ability to reach “near zero” emissions by 2030. (United Nations press release, Dec. 6)
The initiative is a pledge by countries to cut emissions from building operations and construction materials down or close to zero. A Buildings and Climate Global Forum scheduled for March in Paris will flesh-out details.
The Biden-Harris administration’s imminent release of a proposed zero emissions building (“ZEB”) definition aligns with this international effort. The ZEB definition will be the first federal government guideline providing voluntary criteria for buildings that aspire to zero emissions status. (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 29)
SBTi’s latest guidance includes important revisions urged by The Roundtable and Nareit in joint comments submitted last summer. (Roundtable Weekly, July 14).
Notably, SBTi changed course from its original proposal and will allow companies to set science-based emissions targets based on “market-based” solutions such as purchases of renewable energy certificates (RECs).
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is holding a workshop session for Real Estate Roundtable members on improvements to its ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager benchmarking tool. The workshop will take place on January 24, 2024 as part of The Roundtable’s State of the Industry meeting in Washington, DC. (Contact RER Meetings about registration)
The Roundtable’s Jeffrey DeBoer Recognized as a "Top Lobbyist" for 2023
Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer, above, is one of the "Top Lobbyists" in Washington, DC for 2023, according to the widely-read Capitol Hill publication, The Hill. This is the sixth consecutive year that DeBoer has earned the recognition. (The Hill, Dec. 6)
The Top Lobbyists 2023 list includes “impactful advocates (who) stand out for the results they’ve delivered for their clients, companies, trade associations and advocacy groups in the nation’s capital.”
The Hill also noted that after pandemic restrictions were lifted, “these top lobbyists had to navigate a divided Congress—and not just the traditional Republican and Democratic divisions” as a flood of regulatory activity flowed from the Biden administration.
DeBoer commented, “I am honored to lead The Real Estate Roundtable’s policy advocacy efforts and very humbled to be included on The Hill’s top lobbyist list. This personal recognition by The Hill reflects the collective efforts of the Roundtable membership, leadership, and staff. Together we work very hard to deliver non-partisan, data-based policy positions, guided by what is good for communities, job creation, and the economy. This has always been the foundation of our organization’s effectiveness, and it has proven to be even more critical given today’s increasingly challenging policy environment.”