Fresh Look at Tax Code Awaits As Ways and Means Shuffles Leadership

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By Marc Hellerand Aaron E. Lorenzo

Dec. 4 — The House Ways and Means Committee's idea of a tax overhaul at the beginning of 2015 probably won't be the same as its idea at the end, the new chairman of the Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures told Bloomberg BNA.

Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), named Dec. 4 to lead the subcommittee, said rewriting the U.S. tax code is a little bit like police work: The reality on the ground changes as you respond to the call.

That's one perspective as a reorganized team of subcommittee chairmen follows the lead of a new committee chairman, Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), in pursuit of a broad tax overhaul and review of temporary tax credits and deductions for possible longer extensions. Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) is retiring.

Other subcommittee chairmanships reflecting moves, announced Dec. 4, include Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), heading the Trade Subcommittee; Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.), leading the Human Resources Subcommittee; and Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), heading the Oversight Subcommittee.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) will remain chairman of the Health Subcommittee, and Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) will hold onto the Social Security Subcommittee chairmanship.

Democrats: No Decisions Yet

Democrats on the committee, led by ranking member Sander M. Levin (D-Mich.), haven't selected subcommittee chairs, a spokesman said.

Reichert told Bloomberg BNA the tax code is so complex that lawmakers have to view it in totality, realizing that changing one piece can throw off others. That is true of international tax provisions, in particular, he said, despite some lawmakers' suggestions to handle those separately from the rest of the tax code.

“It’s always going to be an evolving effort, like police work in my old career. You have a SWAT plan, but on the way you’re still gathering intelligence and the plan changes by the time you get there,” Reichert said. “So you lay out a strategy for tax reform, and things change as you go forward, then you have to change the strategy slightly.”

The Select Revenue Measures panel, which Tiberi must give up due to Republican rules on term limits, handles a wide range of revenue measures referred by the committee chairman. In the past year, Tiberi has held hearings on legislation, private employer defined benefit pension plans and dynamic scoring of tax legislation, among other issues.

Working With Republican Senate

The new leadership team at Ways and Means will have a Republican-led panel in the Senate with which to coordinate—to the extent that coordination is possible.

“You’ve got to be a little nimble sometimes, especially when you’re working with the Senate. A new Senate, but there will still be some difficulties there,” Reichert said.

He said the committee will begin the new year with a retreat to discuss its path forward, including pursuing permanency for some of the temporary tax extenders, which Congress is moving toward renewing for one year, retroactively, to the end of 2014. Beyond that, he said, a broad tax overhaul is the main item on the agenda, building on a draft that Camp released in 2014.

“We see an opportunity here to drive the agenda to tax reform,” Reichert said. “People are ready for it. I think we have a good foundation beginning with the bill that we completed at the beginning of the year, and work from there.”

Republican lawmakers said after the committee meeting that they discussed changing the corporate side of the tax code to make companies more internationally competitive, while at the same time closing “loopholes” and tax shelters for multinational businesses.

To contact the reporters on this story: Marc Heller in Washington at mheller@bna.com and Aaron E. Lorenzo in Washington at aaron@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Cheryl Saenz at csaenz@bna.com

 

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