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Congressional Tax Legislative Process And Contacting Members of Congress #3



Tom Kerester

This is the 3rd article in the TaxConnections Education Series on the Congressional Tax Legislative Process. This continues the legislative process education provided in previous articles (first article and second article), specifically on the TaxConnections Legislative Process that outlines the steps in the development of every tax proposal approved by the Congress.

My role is to educate TaxConnections Members on all matters involving the Committee on House Ways and Means, the chief tax-writing Committee of the House of Representatives. You will be guided through the legislative steps involved in the development of every tax proposal approved by the Congress. You will also be kept abreast of the legislative developments of that major proposal in my future articles by reference to a number on that chart on the link.

It is important you understand the legislative steps involved in the development of every tax proposal approved by the Congress. For example, Step #6 in the Step By Step U.S. Tax Legislation Process is the perfect time for TaxConnections members to submit their comments and proposed changes to their Member of Congress or to Ways and Means Committee Members as referenced.

Step #7House Committee on Ways and Means Conducts Mark-Up of A Bill, Assisted By Treasury and Congressional Tax Staffs Ways and Means Members who are already beginning markup of the tax proposal as submitted by the President and make final decisions on specific provisions. Thus, if a taxpayer has not submitted their comments for changing or including specific language in the bill before this step, it is highly unlikely that their proposed changes would be accepted and included in the Committee approved bill. Furthermore, if the suggested change had not been submitted to the Staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation for analysis and approved by that staff, it probably would not be considered either.

As the President’s tax proposal moves forward in the legislative process, it becomes more difficult for any technical changes to be made to that bill. So, the earlier the better!

Article #2 details the steps that TaxConnections members can take to express their views to Ways and Means Committee Members and how they can proceed.

Tax Practitioners and others are anxiously awaiting the comprehensive and far-reaching tax proposal President Trump is expected to submit to the Congress in the very near future. When that proposal is made available to the public, those practitioners and others may also be anxious to contact their Member of Congress.

Ethical, procedural, customary, and technical matters need to be seriously considered by every person involved in the process of contacting their Member and their staff before they begin. These rules and procedures apply to contacts in the Members’ District office as well as the Capitol Hill office.

The first set of rules is described in The Dos and the Do Not Rules listed below. These rules are the minimal rules that should be studied and followed when anyone contacts a Member or their staff. My many years of involvement as a lawyer on the Hill and in the private sector (over 50 years) suggest strongly that observance of these basic rules will inure to the benefit of clients of TaxConnections’ members as well as to them.

Your conduct will be long-remembered by Members and Staff. My conduct as a lawyer on the tax writing committees was remembered by Members of Congress while I served on the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation by members of Congress that I had served or met several years before. Oh boy, they have long memories which inured to my benefit! For example, I met former Congressman George Bush, a new Republican member of the Ways and Means Committee in the early 1960s, and in 1992, President Bush (41) honored me with a Presidential Appointment as the Advocate of the SBA representing over 20 million small businesses.

Again, while on the Joint Committee staff in the 1960s, a Ways and Means member approached me and said I remind him of a page that served in the Ohio legislature while he was the Speaker of the Ohio House of Delegates. Wow! He was so correct! I was a Page at that time

Contact With Public Domain Members

Are contacts with Members and Staff in the public domain? If so, can they be made public? If so, what are the consequences?

It’s a highly technical issue and I am not qualified to answer that question either. I will only add that when I served under the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in the 1960’s, I was advised by the then Chief Counsel of that Committee who had served on the Hill in that capacity for many years, that “You shouldn’t say anything you don’t want to see on the front page of the Washington Post the next day.”

Good policy. I still follow that rule!

Members of TaxConnections can make a real difference in developing future tax policy. That time is now! When you consider the connections that members of TaxConnections have in the real world, it is mind-boggling. Then consider the connections those connections have. Wow! It creates a powerful force for the future! Stay involved! The TaxConnections’ team is here to help you serve your clients in every way they can, and to keep you up to date on current legislative developments.

In summary, please read The Dos and Do Nots and try to adhere to those basic and simple rules as a show of respect for the Member’s title and honor.

Members of Congress have many sources from which they can obtain critical information on the impact a proposed tax will have on taxpayers generally. But they value most the information they obtain from tax practitioners who deal with tax matters hourly and daily. So, take advantage of the opportunity to furnish the Members of Congress the vital and critical information they need and cannot obtain that information elsewhere. Please review the list of The Dos and The Do Nots.

Contacting Members of Congress

The Dos

  • Do treat Members of Congress with the utmost respect at all times.
  • Do respect the pressures under which they operate/function in their lives.
  • Do allow them time for scheduling meetings and responses.
  • Do quickly and clearly identify your role in the office meeting: a District voter, a District business owner, an association exec, or a hired lobbyist.
  • Do disclose your Lobbying registration certification with names and affiliation.
  • Do ascertain duration of your meeting with the Member.
  • Do provide them with scheduled/planned meetings with other Members.
  • Do provide them with accurate, reliable and timely written information.
  • Do provide them with the impact of specific legislation on you and their District.
  • Do provide them with views of local and national business groups on legislation.
  • Do provide them with responses to anticipated negative responses and views.
  • Do assure them you will assist them with support of other Members.
  • Do provide them with updates on positive and negative views on that legislation.
  • Do assure them you will discuss your views with appropriate Committee staff.
  • Do assure them you will be on standby during congressional debates for a reasoned response to negative congressional comments.
  • Do assure them that you will not repeat their views to other taxpayers without his specific approval and permission.
  • Do send them a formal “thank you” for their time, effort and consideration.
  • Do confirm appointment time and place: The Capitol or their District office.
  • Do be on time, or earlier, for an appointment.

The Do Nots

  • Do not make any demands on their time.
  • Do not argue with them on any of their views or issues.
  • Do not remind them that your uncle or aunt or family campaigned for them.
  • Do not remind them that a member of your family contributed to their campaign.
  • Do not seek an internship or position on their staff when elected (not “if” elected).
  • Do not repeat their conversations/views to others, without their specific prior approval.
  • Do not forget to send them a “thank you” as soon after the meeting as possible.
  • Do not offer them any type of contribution (cash or check or credit card) or other gift while in their office.
  • Do not make any remarks that would be embarrassing that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the Washington Post or home newspaper.
  • Do not linger in their office for longer than scheduled; their time is very limited.
  • Do not expect to be taken to lunch or dinner or on special tours.
  • Do not share any phone numbers or email addresses given in confidence.
  • Do not schedule any interviews or meetings or pictures for or with them, without their prior approval.
  • Do not schedule any private meetings, lunch, or dinner with staff without prior approval of Member.
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Thomas Kerester

Tom Kerester knows how to connect the dots! Tom is working with TaxConnections to make a difference by getting people involved behind the scenes of the Ways and Means. We will take you on an educational journey through a series of blogs and show you how to get involved in making a difference in the new tax legislative policy under the President Trump Administration.

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