House Republicans to Mull Tax Overhaul Draft for 2016

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Jan. 6 — House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said he's rekindling talks on international tax changes and will let fellow Republicans determine whether he floats legislation on that and other tax revisions in 2016.

Brady said he has told Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), a leader on international tax policy on the Senate Finance Committee, that he is re-engaging on discussions that began in 2015 with Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who chaired Ways and Means before rising to House speaker.

“It's clear that 2016 is going to be a critical year to lay the foundation for tax reform, and there may be an opportunity for significant international tax reform as well,” Brady told reporters Jan. 6 after the committee Republicans' first weekly lunch of the year.

Brady said he would take such issues to two House Republican retreats—one for the full House Republican membership Jan. 13-15, and another for Ways and Means Republicans Jan. 25—which will help determine a plan for tax legislation. “We'll make decisions after we've listened to our conference,” he said.

The deference to rank-and-file lawmakers reflects the approach of Ryan, who told reporters Jan. 6 that he envisions a bottom-up process for crafting the party's agenda in Congress.

“We all collectively, members of the House Republican Conference, are going to be the decision makers. We are just beginning this decision-making process,” Ryan said.

Among those angling for legislation on a tax overhaul are the more conservative Republicans who comprise the House Freedom Caucus. That group's chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), told reporters Jan. 6 that members will press the Republican leadership for a vote on a tax overhaul.

Innovation Box Unfolds

Brady, who returned to Washington with other House members this week, said he hasn't met with Schumer this year to talk about international taxes but is certain he'll have discussions with the senator, who has endorsed a so-called innovation box that would encourage multinational corporations to return profits to the U.S. by offering lower tax rates on income related to intellectual property, for instance.

On the Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.) has worked with Schumer on the issue. Boustany told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 6 he is preparing related legislation.

Among additional issues is whether a tax plan should neither raise nor lose revenue for the government. Although Republicans have sought that goal, Boustany said no decision has been made about requiring a tax draft to be revenue-neutral.

“Let's get good policy and then see where the numbers end up,” Boustany said. “I think we need to go in with an open mind and take a long look at what tax policy should look like going forward.”

Setting the Table

While lawmakers and lobbyists agree that comprehensive tax changes won't be enacted in 2016, Ways and Means Republicans have said the year could prove helpful toward setting the outlines of a tax revamp to come. Depending on the outcome of the presidential election, a tax overhaul is possible in 2017, they have said.

“We're going to talk about it among Republicans in conference next week, about those priorities and how far they want to move as a conference on tax reform and international tax,” Brady said. “We're advancing tax reform, one or more ways, in 2016.”

Big tax changes can't happen outside the context of presidential politics, Brady said, as presidential leadership will be critical to any movement on major tax policy.

In the meantime, lobbying groups prepare to rekindle battles on issues that weren't resolved in the tax package Congress enacted to finish 2015, or on provisions that face expiration at the end of 2016. Brady said the committee's approach to those issues will emerge from the party and committee conferences.

With assistance from Aaron E. Lorenzo in Washington.

To contact the reporter on this story: Marc Heller in Washington at mheller@bna.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Brett Ferguson at bferguson@bna.com