The House and Senate tax bills are a lot alike. Both plans have similar big-picture themes:
Reduce individual rates, pare back some write-offs, slash the corporate rate to 20%, give tax preferences to individual owners of pass-through businesses and move to a territorial tax regime for multinationals.
However, there are also marked differences. We’ll delve into a few of the major ones. The Senate wants temporary individual cuts. This includes lower rates, higher standard deductions and child credit, repeal of the alternative minimum tax, breaks for self-employed persons and owners of pass-through firms, estate tax changes.
The House plan has four individual tax rates, ranging from 12% to 39.6%. The Senate proposes seven rates, starting at 10% and topping out at 38.5%. It’s a close call, but it wouldn’t surprise us to see fewer rates than under current law.
There’s huge disagreement over the popular state and local tax write-off. The Senate wants to fully ax it, while the House has come up with a compromise: End income tax write-offs and cap the deduction for real property taxes at $10,000. We think the Senate will cave when both chambers iron out their differences.
Other itemizations are also in dispute: The home mortgage interest write-off. The House would nix the break for second homes and lower the $1-million ceiling on home acquisition indebtedness to $500,000. These proposals aren’t included in the Senate bill, but there’s a chance they could make it into any final tax legislation.
The write-off for medical costs. The House would do away with this break. The Senate would keep it. We continue to think this deduction will survive in the end.
Turn to the estate tax. The House wants to double the lifetime exemption until 2025, when it would then fully repeal the tax. The Senate would preserve the tax but double the lifetime exemption. Look for the Senate proposal to prevail here.
The treatment of owners of pass-through firms is in flux. The House bill applies a 25% top rate to a portion of a person’s share of income from proprietorships, LLCs, S corporations and partnerships. The Senate calls for a new 17.4% deduction for pass-through income. Both versions contain lots of limitations and anti-abuse rules that have drawn the ire of powerful lobbying groups and at least one GOP senator. We anticipate that these provisions will be substantially revised in any tax package.