Reps. Reichert & Kind Introduce Pro-S Corporation Bills

Yesterday, Congressmen Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Ron Kind (D-WI) introduced HR 4454 and HR 4453 to make permanent two tax provisions that are important to the S corporation community.

The first bill provides a permanent BIG tax fix by locking in the recognition period for the built-in gains tax at five years. The provision was included in Chairman Camp’s tax reform draft and was discussed earlier this week in a Ways & Means Committee hearing that included S-Corp ally Jim Redpath as one of the witnesses. The latter bill, H.R. 4453, makes permanent the basis adjustment for charitable giving by S corporations, and is another provision that was included in the Chairman’s draft.

In a joint press release, Rep. Reichert had this to say:

These are common sense reforms of our current tax code that would help proven job creators – S Corporations – to access the capital they need to grow, compete nationally and globally, and get Americans back to work.  I am proud to introduce these bipartisan bills with my colleague Congressman Kind, and I look forward to continuing work towards comprehensive tax reform. 

Rep. Kind made the following comment:

With nearly 60,000 S Corporations in Wisconsin, supporting these job creators is a key priority of mine as I work to strengthen the economy in Wisconsin and across the country. These bills bring stability, simplicity and fairness to the tax code so S Corporations can continue to provide good jobs and help sustain local communities.

These bills are part of a broader effort by Chairman Camp to move pieces of his tax reform draft through the committee and the House, in preparation for negotiations with the Senate over the fate of tax extenders.  Camp has made clear he intends to mark up the first of these two bills, those addressing Section 179 and the R&E tax credit, shortly after the House returns from the Easter recess.  We hope and expect the Committee to take up the two Reichert/Kind bills shortly after that.

 

S-CORP Testifies on Built In Gains

Long-time S Corporation Association advisor Jim Redpath testified Tuesday before the Ways and Means Committee in support, among other items, of making permanent the 5-year recognition period for built in gains.

The hearing focused on making permanent a handful of so-called “extenders” that were part of Chairman Camp’s Discussion Draft released earlier this year, including the shorter built-in gains recognition period plus increased deductions for S corporations making charitable contributions.

Jim’s testimony, along with that of the four other witnesses, is available here.  You can watch Jim’s testimony by clicking below:

 

 

The hearing adds to the building momentum in Congress to act on extenders this year.  Just last week, the Senate Finance Committee reported out legislation that would extend nearly all the 50-plus tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013.  As with the Camp Draft, this package includes our BIG tax fix and the basis adjustment for charitable giving by S corporations.

S corporation provisions aside, however, the two packages are significantly different.  The Finance Committee package includes nearly all the expired provisions and extends them through the end of 2015.  The Camp package includes only seven provisions and makes them all permanent.

Their respective plans for moving forward are different as well.  Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated he would like to consider extenders first thing when the Senate returns after Easter.  Meanwhile, Camp has made clear he intends to move individual provisions through his Committee and to the House floor, starting with legislation to make the higher limits on Section 179 expensing permanent, then the R&E tax credit, and then others.  His goal is to have a package of permanent House-passed provisions to compete with the broader, but temporary, Wyden package.

Given our druthers, we’d take permanent over temporary.  As Mr. Redpath testified Tuesday:

Although much better than the 10 year recognition period, the temporary extension results in tax motivated transactions as the expiration date approaches that may not be in the best interest of the company or its stakeholders.  Making the 5-year recognition period permanent would preserve the original intent of the 1986 Tax Act and provide S corporations stability and certainty, so they can make business decisions that are best for the company, its owners and stakeholders.

Either way, just having Congress take action on these expired provisions is a positive sign.  We’re hoping to see further progress soon.

Moving on Extenders

Extenders are back in play in the House and Senate.  Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) plans to release his package Monday, with amendments due on Tuesday and markup to begin on Wednesday.

Details of the Wyden plan are not available, but early indications are that his package will include most of the tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013 and that they will be extended for both 2014 and 2015.  It doesn’t appear that the Chairman plans to offset the revenue loss of the package unless there are more modifications to the language than a simple date change.

Meanwhile, on the House side, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) sent a letter to his colleagues outlining his plan for addressing extenders.  As the letter states:

As such, beginning in April, the Committee will continue its work by going policy by policy to determine which extenders should be made permanent.  That process will include both hearings and markups. Specific dates and topics will be forthcoming.   

Reading between the lines, it appears the Ways and Means Committee will hold hearings on extenders beginning in April to examine the provisions more closely, followed by the introduction of an extender package and consideration by the Committee.  After the examination, we should expect a package that focuses on permanent extensions – keeping in line with the principle of tax reform.

For S corporations, there are a couple items at play here.  First is the extension of built-in gains (BIG) relief, which expired at the end of 2013.  With the expiration of the 5 year BIG holding period, thousands of S corporations that have converted from C corporation status now have to hold on to their appreciated assets for an entire decade or face the BIG corporate-level tax. This causes a prohibitive tax burden where the applicable federal, state and local shareholder taxes exceed 60 percent in many states.   This punitive tax effectively forces these businesses to “lock-up” their assets and capital, inhibiting future investments in the business and employees, as well as potential job creation.

Our Senate champions, including Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) who recently introduced legislation together to permanently extend the 5 year recognition period (S. 1855), are steadfast in their support and have called for BIG relief to be part of any extender package that moves forward.  As the snap-back to 10 years is an excessive amount of time to reasonably ask a company to hold a particular asset, Congress has agreed to extend the 5 year period several times and we have had strong bipartisan support for this important relief for many years.

The second item is the extension of the basis adjustment to stock of S corporations making charitable contributions of property, a provision that also expired at the end of last year. With flow-through entities, charitable deductions flow through to the individual tax returns of partners or shareholders.  Prior to the Pension Protection Act (PPA) of 2006, however, if an S corporation made a contribution of appreciated property to charity, its shareholders’ deductions were limited to their basis in the S corporation.  To encourage more charitable giving by S corporations, the PPA temporarily removed this limitation, allowing shareholders to take into account their pro rata share of charitable deductions for contributions of appreciated property.  The provision has been extended with bipartisan congressional support ever since.  It brings consistent treatment of charitable contributions between flow-through businesses, and would allow for America’s S corporations to be more active and supportive of needed charitable activities.

Permanent extensions of these provisions have, of course, been included as part of the S Corporation Modernization package for several congresses – most recently introduced by Reps. Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), as H.R. 892 in the House last year.

Both permanent extensions were included in Chairman Camp’s tax reform discussion draft, along with other S Corporation Association priorities.  The draft would also increase access to capital by extending ownership of an S corporation to non-resident aliens through an electing small business trust (ESBT), ensuring payment of tax at the trust level (at the highest individual tax rate), easing punitive restrictions that apply to converted S corporations regarding passive income limitations, and punishing the unwary with S corp status termination.  Lastly, the draft would encourage philanthropy from S corporations by conforming the rules applicable to ESBTs and individual shareholders of an S corporation.

We plan to keep a close eye on this extender process – particularly our S Corp priorities – and look forward to seeing Chairman Wyden’s package on Monday.