How do you solve a problem like tax extenders? As TPC’s Howard Gleckman explains, you don’t. Congress continues to try to reach a deal on dozens of mostly business tax breaks that technically expired last December. This time, instead of renewing them for a year or two like they usually do, lawmakers want to make some permanent, a step that could add as much as $850 billion to the debt this decade and $2.3 trillion by 2035. Stay tuned…
As for the highway bill…House Speaker Paul Ryan feels good about passing the longer-term infrastructure bill released yesterday. Congress has to pass something—either the multi-year bill or another short-term patch—by Friday. The long-term version includes two controversial provisions. One would require the IRS to use private debt collectors to recover unpaid taxes. The other would deny passports to individuals with unpaid tax debt.
And a spending bill… Ryan was less sanguine about the prospects for the omnibus spending bill. It contains must-pass year-end measures like appropriations and perhaps the aforementioned expired tax breaks. But many Republicans also want to include highly-controversial policy riders on immigration, Planned Parenthood, and the Affordable Care Act. “We’ll see how the process goes,” he said.
And those pesky inversions? Treasury official Robert Stack told the House Ways & Means subcommittee on Tax Policy that Congress should bar inversions if shareholders of the US company own more than 50 percent of the merged company, instead of 80 percent under current law. Stack also said Congress should toughen earnings stripping rules to prevent inverted companies from shifting interest costs to the US, where higher tax rates make the deduction for these expenses more valuable. These actions don’t have to wait for comprehensive tax reform, Stack argued. But panel Republicans did not seem convinced.
Could a carbon tax soon be a reality? It’s building some new friendships, in any event. The Wall Street Journal reports (paywall) that some big oil companies are siding with environmental groups. Both want new taxes on air polluters such as coal-burning power plants—those taxes are good for the natural gas business.
Germany wonders whether Volkswagen employees evaded taxes. VW manipulated test results and sold cars to consumers who received a tax benefit based on false emissions test results. In Germany, that means lower motor vehicle taxes and inspection fees. So far, Germany is investigating the actions of five VW employees.
Just in time for the holidays, an Urban Institute event on taxing soda, sweets, and junk food. On Tuesday, December 15, panelists Donald Marron and Maeve Gearing of the Urban Institute, Baylen Linnekin of the Keep Food Legal Foundation, and Y. Claire Wang of Columbia University’s Obesity Prevention Initiative will consider whether it makes sense to tax soda, sweets, and junk food. Would it improve health? Are there unintended side-effects? Do such taxes unfairly restrict consumer freedom? Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times will moderate the panel.
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