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BPAA Federal Policy Update - January 29

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TAX TOOLS & NEWS

NFIB: How the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act affects small businesses
Small business owners can expect tax relief now that reform is a reality. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is the biggest tax reform package in more than 30 years. Learn more about key small business provisions in the law: https://www.nfib.com/assets/NFIB-Federal-Tax-Reform-update-Jan2018.pdf

IRS Could Withdraw 200-300 ‘Obsolete’ Regulations After Review
The Internal Revenue Service will soon identify up to a few hundred tax regulations as candidates for withdrawal, an agency official said. The list will include about 200-300 regulations that the agency believes to be obsolete, acting Chief Counsel William M. Paul said. The IRS will release the list as a proposed regulation, so that tax practitioners have an opportunity to comment before the rules are killed. “The concern is that there could be some aspect to a regulation that appears to be obsolete, but there's still some tail to it somewhere else,” Paul said Jan. 23 at a New York State Bar Association Tax Section meeting.

IRS Sets Itself February Deadline for Overhauling Tax Forms
The Internal Revenue Service plans to revise all tax filing forms by the end of February—in early stages of a massive overhaul of forms, instructions, and guidance to implement the new tax law. The changes would affect forms to be used during the 2019 filing season. After rewriting the forms, the IRS has to go through the more time-consuming process of updating the instructions and issuing guidance for taxpayers. “We have a deadline of the end of February to lay out in basic, broad-brush terms the forms—not necessarily the instructions to the forms, but the lines to the forms,” Clifford Warren, special counsel in the IRS's Office of Associate Chief Counsel (Passthroughs and Special Industries), said.

IRS and Treasury Dept. Making Tax Withholding Changes
Janet McCubbin, Treasury Dept’s director of individual tax analysis, says IRS and Treasury workers are trying to quickly make tax withholding changes in order make things easy for employers and taxpayers, Bloomberg Tax’s Laura Davison reports.

  • IRS and Treasury plan to release a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, with updated instructions to make withholding more accurate under the new tax law

Interest
The Internal Revenue Service announced the applicable federal interest rates and adjusted applicable rates for February. The applicable federal rates and adjusted applicable federal rates in, released Jan. 17, apply in determining the present value of annuities, loans with below-market interest rates, the present value of golden parachute payments, unrelated business income with respect to tax-exempt organizations, and for other business purposes. The annual applicable short-term rate for February is 1.81 percent, the mid-term rate is 2.31 percent, and the long-term rate is 2.66 percent, the IRS said. Please see the Bloomberg Government chart here: http://www.michaelbeststrategies.com/newsletters/2018/01/IRS_2018_Applicable_Federal_Rates_for_February.pdf

ALCOHOL

NHTSA Report: “Getting to Zero-Impaired Driving Fatalities: A Comprehensive Approach to a Persistent Problem.” 
Under the request and funding provided by the Department of Transportation (NHTSA), a National Academy of Sciences Committee just released a concerning and extreme report on accelerating progress to reduce alcohol-impaired fatalities. 

To view the key highlights from the report, please click here.

NAS was directed to address the following: (1) which interventions (programs, systems, and policies) are most promising to prevent injuries and deaths from alcohol-impaired driving; (2) the barriers to action and approaches to overcome them; and (3) which interventions need to be changed or adopted. 

In the report, NAS states it supports a “Vision Zero, a bold, aspirational approach, in which no alcohol-impaired driving deaths are acceptable and every stakeholder has a role in preventing these deaths.” It has extreme recommends that call for extreme overreach, some include:

  • “Federal and state governments should increase alcohol taxes significantly”
  • State govs should enact per se laws for 0.05 BAC and the fed gov should incentivize this change
  • State and local governments should limit or reduce alcohol availability
  • Fed, state and local gov should adopt or strengthen laws and dedicate enforcement resources to stop illegal alcohol sales
  • Fed, state and local gov should use regulatory powers to strengthen and implement standards on alcohol marketing content and placement across media

Most of the NAS committee members are either professors or in the medical/public health industry. There is one member who was a new appointee as of Feb 2017 who works at NAAG and serves as the staff liaison to the Attorneys General community. Many stakeholders were not included in the discussion and their views were then not incorporated into the recommendations. The question is what will the DOT/NHTSA and supporters of these policies do from here at the federal, state and local level.

NEW SAFETY RULE CHANGES: NHTSA issued a final rule Wednesday making changes to state highway safety grant program procedures. Programs affected by the rule include grants incentivizing alcohol-ignition interlock laws, distracted driving laws, and graduated driver licensing, all of which added flexibility for states to qualify. New grant programs were also established for sobriety programs and nonmotorized safety.

TIP RULE

Top Democrats Ask DOL for Public Hearing on Proposed Tip Rule
Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03), ranking member of the Education and the Workforce Committee, Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-05), vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Congressman Mark Takano (CA-41), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), vice ranking member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, sent a letter to Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Alexander Acosta requesting the DOL hold public hearings on its proposed rule to allow employers to pocket tips of workers who are paid at least the minimum wage…

In addition to providing workers with an opportunity to speak first hand of the impact of the proposed rule, a public hearing would provide an opportunity for the DOL to hear from economists on the rule’s costs to workers. The Members also expressed concern that the DOL has failed to calculate the amount of tips that would be transferred from workers to employers under the proposed rule. This quantitative analysis is legally required to demonstrate to that the rule’s benefits justify its costs. According to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, the rule could have the effect of allowing employers to pocket $5.8 billion of their employees' tips each year.

This comes on the heels of members urging the DOL to extend its initial 30-day comment period for this proposed rule, which they agreed too.

PAID LEAVE

Ivanka Trump Lobbying for National Paid Family Leave Program
White House aide Ivanka Trump has been meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill in recent days as part of the administration’s effort to build support for a national program offering paid leave for working families. “We are working with members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle and thought leaders across this country and many of which are in this room today to build a strong coalition of support for a national paid family leave program,” Trump said during a recent White House event. “This is essential and long overdue. We must recognize the change in composition of our American workforce in which all parents work in the vast majority of American homes.”

A White House official said Ivanka Trump is actively building momentum to make the benefit available to more workers. That includes meeting recently with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.). The administration last year proposed taking funds from other government programs to establish a paid family leave program as part of its budget request.

The recently signed tax reform bill includes a provision giving employers a tax credit of up to 25 percent if they offer workers up to 12 weeks of paid family leave. There are also other pieces of legislation introduced this Congress intended to offer some forms of paid leave.

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