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US House passes sweeping tax bill 227 to 203
US House passes sweeping tax bill 227 to 203

The US House of Representatives [official website] on Tuesday voted 227-203 [roll call] to approve the conference committee version [text] of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act [H.R. 1 materials].

The vote split largely along party lines, with 12 Republicans and all 191 Democrats voting against the measure.

The House and Senate need to approve the conference committee report, issued on Friday evening, in order to reconcile differences in the versions of the bill previously passed by both houses [JURIST reports].

Among the changes the bill would make are the the reduction of the corporate income tax rate from 35% to 21%, and the setting of marginal income tax rates at 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%, with accompanying changes in the income brackets to which those rates apply. Notably, the top marginal tax rate doesn’t kick in until $500,000 individuals and $600,000 for those who file jointly, an increase in the thresholds of $418,400 and $470,700, respectively, under current law.

The conference bill also raises the child tax credit from $1,000 per child in 2017 to $2,000 per child and makes up to $1,400 of the credit refundable. For slightly different kinds of families, the current estate tax exemption of $5 million per individual and $10 million per couple were more than doubled to $11 million per individual and $22 million per couple.

Many of the more controversial aspects of the earlier bills did not survive the committee process. Student loan interest will still be deductible, teachers can still benefit from a $250 credit for classroom supplies,children must still be born to benefit from 529 savings accounts and certain medical expenses remain deductible as under the current code.

The bill also makes changes to the carried interest deduction [Tax Policy Center materials], requiring that assets be held for three years as opposed to one year under current law in order to benefit from the preferential 23.8% tax rate.

Apart from these changes to taxation directly, the bill will also effectively repeal the individual mandate provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) [text], which currently imposes a $695 tax penalty on filers who don’t have minimum insurance coverage. Although the penalty remains technically in effect, the amount of the penalty is set at $0. This method of repeal closely mirrors the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision finding the individual mandate constitutional because it is a tax [JURIST report].

Because the bill was passed under Congress’ reconciliation authority, it only needed 50% plus 1 vote to pass. However, as a consequence, the bill may not alter federal spending beyond a ten-year window. As such, the rates for individual taxpayers are set to expire near the end of that window in 2025 unless a subsequent Congress takes action. The bill’s negative impact [JCT report] on the federal budget, which the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) [official website] put at $1.5 trillion over ten years, would likely be increased dramatically if the cuts were made permanent.