Senate and House Compromise on Tax Reform

With a vote of 51 to 49, the Senate voted in favor of its version of HR 1, leading the way to the passage President Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut package. Since the approval of the Senate’s tax reform plan follows the approval of the House version, the path is now open for the two houses of Congress to work out their differences and agree on a piece of tax legislation that President Trump can then sign into law. If the process goes as the Republicans hope it will, they will be victorious in approving the most significant tax overhaul in over three decades.

Although the Senate and House tax reform plans target the same issues, they often differ on how these items should be treated. One of the major difference is that the House bill makes the new tax adjustments permanent for both businesses and individuals while the Senate bill provides for the expiration of most of the individual tax changes at the end of 2025. The following is a list of some of the important areas targeted by the Republican tax reform packages with an indication of how the House and Senate plans differ:

·        Both tax plans suggest a significant increase to the standard deduction but differ slightly on the amounts of the increase. The House bill raises the standard deduction to $12,200 ($18,300 for HOH and $24,400 for couples filing jointly) while the Senate bill increases it to $12,000 ($18,000 for HOH and $24,000 for couples filing jointly).

·        The House bill proposes four tax brackets with the top marginal tax rate held at 39.6% while the Senate bill keeps the current seven tax brackets but reduces the top marginal rate to 38.5%.

·        The House bill proposes eliminating the tax deduction for medical expenses while the Senate bill keeps it with a cut-off of 7.5 % for the next two tax years.

·        The House bill increases the child tax credit to $1600 for each child under the age of 17 while the Senate bill increases it to $2000 for each child under the age of 18. Both tax reform plans make the first $1000 refundable.        

While the House and Senate tax plans differ on the key points outlined above they are in agreement on the following items: 1) elimination of the additional personal exemption, 2) elimination of exemptions for spouse and dependents, 3) elimination of the additional deduction for the blind, disabled or elderly (over 65), 4) elimination of the sales tax deduction and/or the state and local income tax deduction, 5) retention of the charitable donation deduction, 6) retention of the property tax deduction with a cap at $10,000, 7) elimination of the tax deductions for home office expenses, unreimbursed employee expenses and tax preparation services 8) elimination of tax deductions for student loan interest and moving expenses and 9) exclusion of the first $250,000 of capital gains from the sale of a home that has been lived in for five out of eight of the previous years (allowed once every five years, House bill subject to income phase out). 

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