Nina E. Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate, recently released her 2017 Annual Report to Congress concerning tax administration issues and the challenges facing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the wake of the current tax reform legislation. One significant issue is how the IRS will be able to perform the basic tasks of tax administration given the 20-percent cut to its funding since FY 2010.
President Trump and several key members of Congress have released their proposal for federal tax reform. Their main goals are to simplify the tax code, lower tax rates, increase the competitiveness of American businesses in the international arena, and repatriate dollars currently held in offshore accounts.
The United States Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing on September 19, 2017, to address business tax reform goals. Chairman Orrin Hatch focused his opening remarks on the need to reduce corporate tax rates to remain competitive in the international market and to reduce the burden on the American working class. He recommended allowing businesses to deduct dividends paid as a way to offset what he interpreted as double-taxation, since investors are also taxed on dividends received. He also stressed the need to find a way to reduce the tax burden on pass-through entities such as sole proprietorships, LLCs, and partnerships.
The California Supreme Court issued a ruling on August 28, 2017 in California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland that may have created a loophole for special interests to get around the limitations on tax increases established by Propositions 13 and 218. In the instant case, an initiative was proposed in Upland, California to repeal an ordinance banning medical marijuana dispensaries and instead allow up to three dispensaries to obtain permits, subject to an "annual Licensing and Inspection fee" totaling $75,000. Since this fee exceeds the costs incurred by the government for issuing the license, it is considered a general tax. Normally, such taxes can only be heard at general elections, but an exception was made and the initiative was voted on in a special election.
United States Senate Committee on Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch recently issued a request to experts and stakeholders for comments and recommendations to improve the federal tax system. The committee is specifically seeking ideas about how to provide tax relief to the middle class; how to strengthen businesses of all sizes through the tax system; how to encourage savings and investment and remove tax-related obstacles to such; and how to update the international tax system to stay competitive in the global economy.
As of July 1, 2017, California's State Board of Equalization will likely be a thing of the past. Lawmakers voted on June 15th to pass Senate Bill 86, The Taxpayer Transparency and Fairness Act of 2017, which will rapidly create a new Department of Tax and Fee Administration that will fall under the umbrella of the Government Operations Agency and take over all of the Board's non-Constitutional functions from headquarters in Sacramento. The only responsibilities left to the Board will be property tax administration, tax rate setting, and some other minor duties.
The last comprehensive revision of the Internal Revenue Code occurred in 1986, when Congress passed the Tax Reform Act of 1986. On April 26, 2017, with less than one page of writing, President Trump has summarized his Tax Reform Plan, which promises to reduce tax brackets, simplify the tax code, create millions of job, and protect a variety of deductions. Included in the plan are the following proposed changes: