Welcome to the latest installment of Advocacy Agenda, a periodic column in which I share select insights and observations of interest to TEI members about the tax policy advocacy environment in Washington, D.C.
My last column, in the July/August 2021 issue of Tax Executive, attempted to set the scene for what was expected to be another period of historic consequence for the US international tax system—one in which TEI was prepared to play its part. TEI had just issued its new Guideposts for Tax Policy, articulating a series of high-priority, broadly applicable principles of sound tax policy to inform the burgeoning tax reform deliberations on Capitol Hill.1 And once those deliberations were ultimately reduced to writing in the form of draft legislation, the guideposts would provide a solid, principles-based foundation to support TEI’s substantive advocacy efforts. It was a time of great anticipation (and apprehension) that inspired dozens of TEI members to get involved at the Institute level—many for the first time.
As the summer of 2021 progressed into the fall, TEI’s Tax Reform Task Force held a series of virtual meetings with members from across the industry spectrum who shared their views on a range of corporate and international tax reform provisions in successive iterations of the Build Back Better Act (BBBA). From its initial release on September 12 to its passage in the House of Representatives on November 18, the BBBA’s evolving tax title prompted over sixty TEI members to weigh in and share their concerns as in-house tax professionals. The fruits of this engagement are embodied in the compilation of substantive comments and recommendations that TEI submitted to the leaders of Congress’ tax-writing committees on December 9.2
To the uninitiated, the BBBA’s tax proposals are easily maligned as a politically expedient means to an end—enacting the Biden administration’s climate and social policy priorities. To many TEI members, however, a more nuanced picture appears. Relative to the competing plans released by the Biden administration and a trio of Democratic US Senators last year,3 the BBBA’s tax title resembles a more thoughtful and reasonably balanced package of reforms to the US international tax system—one that includes several important, long-sought technical corrections and other improvements to current law that should not be overlooked.
Of course, TEI members also identified multiple areas of significant concern among the bill’s corporate and international tax provisions that warrant further attention by Congress. TEI’s congressional submission articulates the most acute and widespread of these concerns and offers constructive, consensus-based recommendations for tax writers to address them, in a manner consistent with TEI’s Guideposts for Tax Policy.
Build Back Something
Although some may question the value of devoting so much time and attention to commenting on legislation that may never become law, I take a different view. Hope springs eternal inside the Beltway, and I still believe it’s more likely than not that some form of the House-passed legislation will ultimately make its way to the Resolute desk this fiscal year. And whatever portions (or chunks) of the BBBA ultimately survive the next round of legislative sausage-making, they will likely be funded by a tax title derived from the existing menu of revenue raisers—measures on which TEI has already weighed in. As recent history shows, the significance of previously vetted and scored tax legislative proposals should not be discounted.4
If you have yet to read TEI’s comments on the BBBA for yourself, I invite you to do so by visiting www.tei.org/advocacy/submissions. If you like what you see and want to get involved, please let me know. Active member participation is the lifeblood of TEI advocacy.
Watson M. McLeish is tax counsel for Tax Executives Institute, Inc. in Washington, D.C., where he supports the advocacy activities of the Institute’s Tax Reform Task Force, Federal Tax Committee, and Canadian Income Tax Committee. TEI members interested in joining—or proposing—an Institute-level advocacy project may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- James A. Kennedy, Tax Executives Institute, “Guideposts for Tax Policy in the 117th Congress” [Letter to the Senate Committee on Finance and the House Committee on Ways and Means], May 11, 2021, www.tei.org/sites/default/files/advocacy_pdfs/TEI%20Guideposts%20for%20Tax%20Policy_Final_5.11.21.pdf.
- Tax Executives Institute, Comments on H.R. 5376, Build Back Better Act, Corporate and International Tax Reform Provisions, December 9, 2021, www.tei.org/sites/default/files/advocacy_pdfs/TEI%20Comments%20on%20BBBA%20Corporate%20and%20International%20Tax%20Reforms_FINAL_12.9.21.pdf.
- See Department of the Treasury, General Explanations of the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2022 Revenue Proposals, May 2021, home.treasury.gov/system/files/131/General-Explanations-FY2022.pdf; Senate Committee on Finance, 117th Congress, International Tax Reform Framework Discussion Draft, Section-by-Section Description, August 24, 2021, www.finance.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/section%20by%20section%20-%20WBW%20Framework%20discussion%20draft%208.20.21%20FINAL.pdf.
- See, for example, Mindy Herzfeld, “5G Tax Legislation: Be Ready for Quick Passage,” 164 Tax Notes Federal 1695, September 9, 2019 (“Review of the international tax provisions in President Obama’s 2016 budget highlights the importance of paying attention to legislative proposals—even those that appear to have no traction”); see also Ernst & Young LLP, Tax Alert 2017-1402, “What’s Past Is Prologue: How Previous International Tax Reform Proposals May Shape the Current Debate,” August 30, 2017, which notes that international tax reform ideas may come from proposals that have already been vetted.