WASHINGTON — Republicans unveiled an overhaul of the tax code on Thursday that included a sharp drop in the corporate rate, from 35% to 20%, one of the top priorities of entertainment and media lobbyists this year, along with much of the rest of the industry.
The proposal preserves a key deduction for advertising expenses, sources said, after showbiz representatives lobbied heavily against such a move. Eliminating that provision had been under discussion as a way to pay for the tax cuts, but lobbyists from Madison Avenue, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley had argued that it would have depressed the ad market.
Major media companies have long pushed for a drop in the corporate rate, and have even warned that they would base more of their intellectual property overseas to benefit from lower rates in countries like Great Britain and Ireland.
The proposal also caps the rate for small business income to 25%. This has been a controversial proposal, as so many individuals “pass through” their personal income as business income, allowing them to collect a lower rate. The proposal promises safeguards “to distinguish individual wage income and ‘pass through’ business income.”
Businesses also will be allowed to immediately write off the cost of new equipment, another provision that has been of interest to Hollywood, and whether it would apply to some of the expenses of production.
“We have got to modernize our tax code so that we can be competitive again, so that we can keep jobs in this country, so that we can keep businesses in this country,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), said at a press conference. “We have seen a flurry of U.S. companies moving overseas and becoming foreign companies.”
MPAA CEO Charles Rivkin said that they “are encouraged that the committee’s proposed changes to the U.S. tax code will encourage further job creation and economy growth.”
21st Century Fox said in a statement that they “are pleased to see that this legislation appropriately reduces the corporate tax rate and continues to rightfully treat advertising costs as an ordinary business expense. We look forward to a more fulsome review of this legislation’s other provisions and commit to work constructively with Congressional leaders and the Administration to advance pro-growth legislation.”
Among the other highlights unveiled on Thursday:
Individuals. Establishes 0%, 12%, 25%, and 35%, and maintains a 39% rate for “high income” earners. Income levels have yet to be announced. It also increases the standard deduction, from $6,350 to $12,000 for individuals, and $12,700 to $24,000 for married couples. That is an incentive to not itemize.
Home mortgage. Maintains the interest deduction for current homeowners, but sets a cap of $500,000 for newly bought homes.
State and local property taxes. Continues to allow deductions, but only up to $10,000.
“Death tax.” Republicans have long dubbed the estate tax the “death tax,” and the proposal repeals it after six years.
Major questions remain about just what the proposal will look like in the coming weeks, as lawmakers pick through it and business lobbyists feverishly try to preserve key tax breaks. Senate Republicans will be able to pass their tax reform proposal by simple majority — i.e. without support from Democrats. But they face a daunting task of showing that it will not increase the deficit beyond $1.5 trillion over the next decade.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the GOP tax plan “half-baked,” and said that it was “written in the dark, to be raced through Congress before it is understood.”