This is the second article in TaxConnections series of developing a better understanding of the how our Federal tax laws are initiated and implemented, and the various participants in Congress, including Members of Congress, their qualified technical and administrative staffs involved in that process. It also highlights the techniques utilized by the private sector (individuals, businesses large and small, plus associations) in that effort. (To read the first article, click here)
Most groups involved in Hill activity understand that all revenue measures must originate in the House of Representatives. Hence, all tax proposals submitted by the Executive Branch, namely the President, are submitted to the House of Representatives, and then referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. The House Committee on Ways and Means has jurisdiction over all tax matters and is considered the most prestigious Committee in the House of Representatives.
Traditionally, newly elected Members of Congress are not offered a seat on that Committee. Again, traditionally, the ratio of Republicans to Democrats on the House Committee on Ways and Means is equal to ratio of Republicans to Democrats in the full House of Representatives.
The House Committee on Ways and Means starts the process of developing new tax policies by inviting the Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Policy to testify in public, explaining the broad tax policy issues involved, the impact of those proposed changes, as well as the revenue implications, along with the specific impact of those changes of various taxpayer levels.
After carefully reviewing the tax proposals, invitations are generally extended by the House Committee on Ways and Means to many of the taxpayers (and taxpayer groups) that may be affected by the proposed tax changes. However, due to time limitations, not all taxpayers or taxpayer groups are offered an opportunity to testify.
As a result, some taxpayers are faced with a real challenge of finding a way to communicate their views to the House Ways & Means Committee Members and the Senate Finance Committee. However, more experienced taxpayer groups (major corporations, small business associations, and others) network their client’s views via their own network of contacts on the Hill – i.e. to the highly talented technical tax staffs associated with the pertinent tax committees, Congressman and Senators from the home jurisdictions of their clients, and other congressional leaders in the Congress.
Most members of TaxConnections and their clients could, and most probably will, be affected by President Trump’s tax proposals. I suspect that many TaxConnections’ members have a ready, established access to their Member of Congress through whom they can convey their views. However, if you are not one of those members, we encourage you to get involved and offer the following suggestions:
1. First, meet personally with your Member in the District Office, if possible. TaxConnections can help you identify your Member of Congress, if necessary. If your Member is not on the House Ways & Means Committee, ask your Member to contact his/her friend on that Committee requesting they support your efforts.
2. If you can’t meet personally, then send an email to the Congressional Member. Send the email to their Congressional office at the Capitol: www.house.gov/members name.
3. In your email to your Congressional Member, CC the Staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation: firstname.lastname@example.org. WHY JCT? This staff brings a unique historical perspective to the discussion. Moreover, this highly technical and respected staff is the only congressional tax staff that is invited to express their views during the Mark-Up sessions on any proposal submitted by the Treasury, on any Member amendments, and on any amendments offered by the public in the House Ways & Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, and the Tax Conference Committee. If your suggested amendment hasn’t been submitted to JCT and reviewed by that Staff and endorsed by that staff, it is highly unlikely your proposed change will be considered.
4. Next, please be sure to bcc TaxConnections by sending an email to: Kat@taxconnections.com. If Kat receives emails from other TC members urging the same changes as yours, she can then decide what other efforts TaxConnections should take as a group, if at all.
Is it worth the effort? YES? My personal experience of over 50 years working on Congressional tax legislative issues assures me that it does! Congressional Members always seek comments from their constituents. So now is the time to express your views. Your input is very important during this process and you are strongly encouraged to take action in this tax policy making process.
You can reach your Member of Congress in their Washington office by calling the Capitol Hill operator at 202-225-3121. Or if you have further questions, you can contact Tom Kerester, the author of this post at email@example.com. And you can always reach Kat Jennings, your CEO, at firstname.lastname@example.org.