Four Possible Changes You Didn't Know Belonged in Tax Code

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By Laura Davison

May 12 — House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady isn't kidding when he says he is listening to all ideas as he comes up with a framework for revamping the tax code next year.

The Tax Policy Subcommittee on May 12 opened the doors for 48 House members to push their ideas about what tax initiatives should make it into a possible 2017 overhaul. Oft-repeated proposals, such as preferable treatment for student loan debt and provisions to help U.S. manufacturers, made the list.

But there were some ideas that only those fully steeped in the code would know have a legislative solution:

  • Protecting Hunters' Hearing. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) seeks to remove a $200 transfer tax under tax code Section 5811 on firearm sound suppressors, essentially mufflers for guns. His legislation (H.R. 3799) would remove what he calls an antiquated and oppressive barrier to common sense safety equipment. Those opposed to suppressors have said they make it easier for people to hunt illegally.
  • Foreign Exchange Students. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said that increasing the deduction for families who host international exchange students from $50 to $400 per month would improve foreign policy starting at the grass-roots level. His bill (H.R. 4296) aims to “get people over here so they understand America,” he said.
  • Triple Crown Finances. Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) is seeking to depreciate race horses over three years. His bill (H.R. 3671) would make the depreciation timetable permanent because it is “sound tax policy, as the useful life of the asset is three years once your put a racehorse into service,” he said.
  • Longer-Aged Craft Spirits. Apparently, there are more barrels of bourbon aging in Kentucky than there are residents, Barr said. Which wouldn't be a problem, except that producers of spirits must capitalize interest costs while the liquor is aging, he said. Rep. Erik Paulsen's (R-Minn.) Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (H.R. 2903) seeks to let distillers expense those costs during the aging process, which can last up to three decades.


Some of the bills were admittedly narrowly tailored and aren't likely to play a prominent role in big-picture discussions about how to reformulate the tax system. The process is a return to “regular order” to float tax ideas to make the tax code fairer and simpler, Brady said.

Chairman Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.) said the subcommittee is still focused on a comprehensive overhaul of the tax code, not a piecemeal solution.

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura Davison in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Brett Ferguson at