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Cramer: House Passes $629 Billion in Tax Relief

Dec 17, 2015
Press Release
Section 179 Expensing Made Permanent; Bonus Depreciation Extended for Five Years

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Kevin Cramer announced today the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2029, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015.  In addition to providing $629 billion in tax relief for American taxpayers and businesses, it reins in the Internal Revenue Service, provides certainty for families and taxpayers as they plan for the future and offers incentives for charitable activities. 

A number of temporary tax provisions in the Internal Revenue Code expired at the end of 2014, and had these tax provisions not extended retroactively, taxpayers would have been unable to use these credits and deductions when filing their 2015 tax returns.  The PATH Act makes permanent nearly two dozen of these provisions and extends many the others, preventing tax increases on families and businesses that will begin filing their 2015 tax returns early next year.

“This bill is a major step toward reforming our complicated and punitive tax code,” said Cramer.  “It provides families and small businesses with an improved tax regulatory environment to prosper which will result in higher paying jobs throughout the country.” 

Cramer said a highlight of the bill is making Section 179 expensing permanent.  “I hear from North Dakota farmers and other small business owners about this nearly every day. Making this deduction permanent gives them the certainty to make long-term capital purchase decisions which will help create good paying jobs.” 

The Section 179 equipment tax deduction allows small businesses the ability to deduct those costs immediately, instead of over the useful life of the property.  From 2010 through 2014, the expensing limitation was raised repeatedly on a short-term basis to $500,000.  This legislation makes the deduction permanent. 

“Any tax reform package needed to include Section 179 expensing.  The bill also makes Individual Retirement Account charitable rollovers permanent,” said Cramer.  “Allowing individuals the opportunity to donate their retirement accounts to their church or charity enhances and rewards their community. Charities deliver important services with compassion which is uncommon for government programs.”

Cramer has long advocated for making Section 179 expensing permanent.  On Feb 13, he spoke about its impact on farmers and small business owners in North Dakota.  View the speech by clicking on the image below.

Cramer spoke on the House floor on Feb. 12 about the importance of making charitable donations a permanent part of the tax code.  View the speech by clicking on the image below.


Summary of Section 179 Expensing and Bonus Deprecation

Section 179

Permanent extension, retroactive to 2015

The provision permanently extends small business expensing up to $500,000 of investments in new equipment and property per year, with the deduction phased out for investments exceeding $2 million. These amounts currently are $25,000 and $200,000, respectively. The special rules that allow expensing for computer software and qualified real property (qualified leasehold improvement property, qualified restaurant property, and qualified retail improvement property) also are permanently extended. The provision modifies the expensing limitation by indexing both the $500,000 and $2 million limits for inflation beginning in 2016 and by treating air conditioning and heating units placed in service in tax years beginning after 2015 as eligible for expensing. The provision further modifies the expensing limitation with respect to qualified real property by eliminating the $250,000 cap beginning in 2016.

Bonus Depreciation

5-year extension, retroactive to 2015

The provision extends bonus depreciation for property acquired and placed in service during 2015 through 2019 (with an additional year for certain property with a longer production period). The bonus depreciation percentage is 50 percent for property placed in service during 2015, 2016 and 2017 and phases down, with 40 percent in 2018, and 30 percent in 2019. The provision continues to allow taxpayers to elect to accelerate the use of AMT credits in lieu of bonus depreciation under special rules for property placed in service during 2015. The provision modifies the AMT rules beginning in 2016 by increasing the amount of unused AMT credits that may be claimed in lieu of bonus depreciation. The provision also modifies bonus depreciation to include qualified improvement property and to permit certain trees, vines, and plants bearing fruit or nuts to be eligible for bonus depreciation when planted or grafted, rather than when placed in service.


Summary of H.R. 2029, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015 as amended

Individual Tax Extenders

Enhanced Child Tax Credit Made Permanent—The bill makes permanent the enhanced child tax credit. To the extent the CTC exceeds the taxpayer’s tax liability, the taxpayer is eligible for a refundable credit (the additional child tax credit) equal to 15 percent of earned income in excess of a threshold dollar amount (the “earned income” formula). The provision permanently sets the threshold amount at an unindexed $3,000.

American Opportunity Tax Credit Made Permanent—The bill makes permanent the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which allows taxpayers generally to claim a tax credit up to $2,500 for qualified tuition and related postsecondary education expenses. The full credit is available to individuals, whose modified adjusted gross income is $80,000 or less, or $160,000 or less for married couples filing a joint return. The credit is phased out for taxpayers with incomes above these levels.

Enhanced Earned Income Tax Credit Made Permanent—The bill makes permanent enhanced provisions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is available to low- and moderate-income workers. Under current law, the EITC amount has been temporarily increased for individuals with three or more children and the EITC marriage penalty has been reduced by increasing the income phase-out range by $5,000 (indexed for inflation) for those who are married and filing jointly. The bill makes these provisions permanent.

K-12 Teacher Classroom Expenses Deduction Made Permanent—The bill makes permanent the above-the-line deduction[3] (currently capped at $250) for the eligible classroom expenses of elementary and secondary school teachers. The provision also modifies the deduction to index the $250 cap to inflation and include professional development expenses. This provision was first enacted on a temporary basis in 2002 and has regularly been included in tax extender packages

State and Local Sales Taxes Deduction—The bill permanently extends the option to take an itemized deduction for State and local general sales taxes in lieu of an itemized deduction for State and local income taxes. An itemized sales tax deduction allows taxpayers to deduct State and local sales tax they have paid from their federal taxes. Since 2004, there has been a temporary provision allowing for itemized deductions of State and local sales tax when determining taxable income; however, this deduction expired on January 1, 2015. Allowing for an itemized deduction for State and local income taxes, but not for State and local sales taxes, creates a tax liability disparity for residents of States that impose a sales tax rather than an income tax.  On April 16, 2015, the House passed H.R. 622, the State and Local Sales Tax Deduction Fairness Act of 2015, by a vote of 272 to 152.  H.R. 622 made permanent an itemized deduction for State and local general sales taxes. The Senate has not acted on the House-passed bill.

Tuition and Related Expenses for Higher Education Deduction—The bill extends through 2016 the above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses for higher education. The deduction is capped at $4,000 for an individual whose adjusted gross income (AGI) does not exceed $65,000 ($130,000 for joint filers) or $2,000 for an individual whose AGI does not exceed $80,000 ($160,000 for joint filers). The tuition and fees deduction was originally enacted in 2001 and went into effect in 2002.

IRA Charitable Donations Exclusion—The bill permanently extends the ability of individuals at least 70½ years of age to exclude from gross income qualified charitable distributions (capped at $100,000 per year) from Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). This exclusion was originally enacted in 2006.

Homeowner Related Deductions—The bill generally extends through 2016 the treatment of qualified mortgage insurance premiums as interest for purposes of the mortgage interest deduction and extends the exclusion from gross income of discharge of qualified principal residence indebtedness. The discharge of qualified principal residence indebtedness includes any debt incurred in acquiring, constructing, or substantially improving a principal residence or any debt secured by the principal residence resulting from the refinancing of debt for the residence. A principal residence is generally the home where the taxpayer lives most of the time. A taxpayer can have only one principal residence at a time.

Employee Parking Benefit Exclusion—The bill permanently extends certain parking benefits from being counted toward an employee’s wages for payroll tax purposes, and from gross income for income tax purposes.

Business Tax Provisions

Two-year Moratorium on the Medical Device Excise Tax—The bill provides for a two-year moratorium on the 2.3-percent excise tax imposed on the sale of medical devices, established by the ACA. The tax will not apply to sales during calendar years 2016 and 2017.

Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit Extension and Modification Made Permanent— The bill makes permanent the research and development (R&D) tax credit and the alternative simplified credit (ASC) at 14 percent. The provision also modifies the R&D credit to expand benefits for small businesses.  On May 20, 2015, the House passed H.R. 880the American Research and Competitiveness Act of 2015, by a vote of 274 to 145. H.R. 880 is similar to the R&D provision in this bill, as it, among other things, restructures the ASC tax credit.

Low-income Housing Tax Credit Made Permanent—The bill makes permanent the temporary 9 percent minimum credit rate for the low income housing tax credit for non-Federally subsidized new buildings to allocations made before 2017. The low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program is one of the federal government's primary policy tools for encouraging the development and rehabilitation of affordable rental housing. These non-refundable federal housing tax credits are awarded to developers of qualified rental projects via a competitive application process administered by state housing finance authorities.

New Markets Tax Credit Extension—The bill extends the new markets tax credits (NMTC) through 2019 with an annual allocation of $3.5 billion. The NMTC is a non-refundable tax credit intended to encourage private capital investment in eligible, impoverished, low-income communities.

Modification of Work Opportunity Tax Credit Extension—The bill extends through 2019 the work opportunity tax credit (WOTC). The provision also modifies the credit to apply to employers who hire qualified long-term unemployed individuals (i.e., those who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more) and increases the credit with respect to such long-term unemployed individuals to 40 percent of the first $6,000 of wages. The WOTC allows employers that hire individuals with certain characteristics to claim a tax credit equal to a portion of the wages paid to those individuals. WOTC-eligible populations include recipients of certain public benefits (such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families), qualified veterans, ex-felons, and other specified populations.

Depreciation of Leasehold Improvements—The bill permanently extends the 15-year recovery period for qualified leasehold improvements, qualified restaurant property, and qualified retail improvement property to property placed in service to encourage businesses to make investments in their businesses and to hire new employees.

Bonus Depreciation Extension and Modifications—The bill extends 50-percent bonus depreciation for property acquired and placed in service through 2019 and makes certain modifications to the use of AMT tax credits. The bonus depreciation allowance enables taxpayers to expense a portion of the cost of qualified assets bought and placed in service.

Section 179 Expensing Made Permanent and Modified—The bill makes permanent the Section 179 small business expensing on certain business assets. Under Section 179, taxpayers may expense up to $500,000 in business assets per year, and the benefit is reduced if the taxpayer places in service more than $2 million in qualified business property during the year.  These limits are indexed to inflation starting beginning in 2016. 

Small Business Long-term Stock Exclusions—The bill extends the temporary exclusion of 100 percent of the gain on certain small business stock for non-corporate taxpayers to stock acquired before January 1, 2017, and held for more than five years.

Energy Related Provisions

Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Incentives Extension —The bill extends through 2016 the existing $1.00 per gallon tax credit for biodiesel and biodiesel mixtures, and the small agri-biodiesel producer credit of 10 cents per gallon.

Fuel Cell Motor Vehicles Credit Extension—The bill extends through 2016 the credit for purchases of new qualified fuel cell motor vehicles. The provision allows a tax credit of between $4,000 and $40,000 depending on the weight of the vehicle for the purchase of such vehicles.

New Homes Energy-Efficient Credit Extension—The bill extends through 2016 the tax credit for manufacturers of energy-efficient residential homes. An eligible contractor may claim a tax credit of $1,000 or $2,000 for the construction or manufacture of a new energy efficient home that meets qualifying criteria.

Other Provisions

Program Integrity Improvements for Refundable Tax Credits––The bill includes a dozen provision to improve compliance and reduce fraud with respect to the earned income tax credit (EITC), the child tax credit (CTC), and the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), including:

Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) Reforms—The bill requires individuals who were issued ITINs before 2013 to renew their ITINs on a staggered schedule between 2017 and 2020. The provision also provides that an ITIN will expire if an individual fails to file a tax return for three consecutive years. ITINs are generally issued by the IRS to individuals, like undocumented workers, who are not eligible for Social Security Numbers, but are liable for certain taxes.

Limit on Retroactive Claims for Credits without Social Security number or Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) Reforms––The bill prevents retroactive claims of the EITC, the CTC, and the AOTC after issuance of new SSNs or ITINs. 

W-2 Reporting and Verification Reforms––The bill provides the IRS with information on employee wages faster and allows additional time for tax authorities to verify that W-2 information matches credit eligibility, while also improving the IRS’ ability to stop identity thieves. 

Safe Harbor from Certain Fees—The bill establishes a safe harbor from penalties for the failure to file correct information (de minimis errors) on tax returns if the error is generally $100 or less.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Reforms—The bill makes various changes to current law to increase accountability at the IRS. The bill includes provisions contained within the following bills that were previously passed in the 114th Congress: H.R. 1058 - Taxpayer Bill of Rights Act of 2015; H.R. 1152 - IRS Email Transparency Act; H.R. 1026 - Taxpayer Knowledge of IRS Investigations Act; H.R. 1314 - Ensuring Tax Exempt Organizations the Right to Appeal Act; H.R. 1295 - IRS Bureaucracy Reduction and Judicial Review Act; H.R. 709 - Prevent Targeting at the IRS Act; and H.R. 1104 - Fair Treatment for All Gifts Act.

Rollovers from Other Retirement Plans into Simple Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)—The provision allows a taxpayer to roll over amounts from employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as 401(k) plans, to SIMPLE IRAs.

Real Estate Investment Trust (REITs) Provisions— The bill makes various improvements to the existing laws governing REITs. A REIT is a type of security that invests in real estate through property or mortgages and often trades on major exchanges like a stock. REITs provide investors with an extremely liquid stake in real estate. They receive special tax considerations and typically offer high dividend yields. REITs, an investment vehicle for real estate that is comparable to a mutual fund, allow both small and large investors to acquire ownership in real estate ventures, own and in some cases operate commercial properties such as apartment complexes, hospitals, office buildings, timber land, warehouses, hotels and shopping malls.

U.S. Capitol Police and Supreme Court Police Retirement Accounts—The bill expands the provision allowing public safety officers to make withdrawals from retirement accounts, beginning at age 50, without incurring the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty to include U.S. Capitol Police offers, Supreme Court Police officers, and diplomatic security special agents. H.R. 2146, the Defending Public Safety Employees' Retirement Act, which was enacted on June 29, 2015, previously expanded the provision to cover Federal law enforcement officials but inadvertently omitted the other categories of public safety officers.

Section 529 College Savings Plan Accounts Improvements—The bill expands the definition of qualified higher education expenses for which tax-preferred distributions from 529 accounts are eligible to include computer equipment and technology. The bill also modifies 529-account rules to treat any distribution from a 529 account as coming only from that account, even if the individual making the distribution has more than one account. The provision treats a refund of tuition paid with amounts distributed from a 529 account as a qualified expense if such amounts are re-contributed to a 529 account within 60 days.

U.S. Tax Court Administration—The bill makes certain changes to the authorization and function of the U.S. Tax Court to improve efficiency and accountability.

Revenue Provisions—The bill makes several changes that will increase revenues including: modifying the deduction for energy efficient commercial buildings; changing tax treatment of certain motion picture employees; modifying tax credits for liquefied natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas; and making certain changes to the tax liability of clean coal power plants.

Pay-As-You-GO (PAYGO)—The bill also provides that the budgetary effects of the Act shall not be entered on either PAYGO scorecard maintained pursuant to section 4(d) of the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010 or certain Senate Rules. The Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act provides a budget enforcement mechanism that generally requires that direct spending and revenue legislation enacted into law not increase the deficit.