Whether you are looking forward to Joe Biden’s presidency or not, one thing is certain, the business tax landscape is sure to change. Let’s take a brief look back before we look to the future.
The economic effect of the coronavirus pandemic dominated the fiscal policy debate during the last presidential campaign. Another issue implicitly on the ballot was the fate of the tax code overhaul known informally as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which was signed into law in 2017. The TCJA lowered the tax burden for many businesses; and while the act’s provisions are generally permanent, some changes are scheduled to phase in or out before 2025.
The full details of Biden’s tax-policy proposals await further fleshing out, but Biden’s campaign website and comments made on the campaign trail suggest that the Biden administration’s proposed tax policies could have widespread effects if enacted into law. We took a deeper look into Biden’s stance on key policy issues in our report, “A change in course: Tax policy implications of a Joe Biden presidency.”
President-elect Biden campaigned on the premise that TCJA’s benefits are overly skewed to large corporations and wealthy individuals, and that the federal income tax system must be retooled to ensure that these taxpayers are contributing “their fair share.” To that end, he proposed higher top income tax rates for both individuals and corporations, along with “base-broadeners” that would limit or eliminate advantages available to these taxpayers.
Under Biden’s plan, revenue generated from these proposed changes to the tax code could range from roughly $2.4 trillion to slightly more than $3.3 trillion between 2021 and 2030. According to estimates from various nonpartisan think tanks, these gains would be used to for a variety of other priorities, including to provide tax relief for lower and middle-income taxpayers and fund spending on items such as improving the nation’s infrastructure and health care, developing alternative energy sources and building up the country’s manufacturing sector. One of the signature provisions of the TCJA was the reduction in the corporate tax rate to 21% from its prior-law level of 35%. Biden proposes to increase that rate to 28%.
An increase in the corporate tax rate would automatically trigger changes elsewhere in the tax code. For example, it would affect the rate imposed on global intangible low-taxed income (GILTI) and foreign-derived intangible income (FDII), both of which are tied to the corporate income tax rate. Biden has also called for a 15% minimum tax on the book income of companies that report net income of more than $100 million but owe no U.S. income tax. Other pieces of the Biden plan expand the reach of the estate tax.
He would encourage domestic manufacturing and discourage offshoring of U.S. jobs and production activity through a combination of tax penalties and incentives. And he proposes to tighten tax benefits available to owners of large pass-through entities (who are taxed as individuals) by phasing out the deduction under section 199A for those with income of more than $400,000 (the 199A deduction, even without that change, is scheduled to expire after 2025). Various think tanks and research institutions have analyzed Biden’s tax plans. There appears to be consensus that Biden’s tax plan will raise approximately $2 trillion-$4 trillion in additional federal revenue.
It’s important to note that tax policy typically originates in Congress, not the White House. Laws proposed by the Biden administration will have to go through Congress. Ultimately, tax policy will hinge on the balance of power in the House and Senate, and upon the legislative and executive branches reaching agreement. It will also be important to monitor the results of this week’s runoff elections in Georgia, as they will decide control of the U.S. Senate, and will heavily affect the extent to which Biden can take ideas from the campaign trail to a signing ceremony.
Boake Munsch is a Minneapolis tax partner of Deloitte Tax LLP. Contact him at email@example.com.