As a forward to this Special Article, I want to tell you it has been written by our new TaxConnections Member Tom Kerester. Tom has extensive experience on Capitol Hill in the United States Congress as a Legislative Attorney on the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (that served five committees of the Congress) and on the House Committee on Ways and Means. As a Former Executive Director of Tax Executives Institute (1985-1992) in Washington, D.C., Tom then went on to a Presidential Appointment with Senate Confirmation under the Administration of George H.W. Bush as Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the United States Small Business Administration and in the Congressional Office of Congressman Bill Thomas (CA). Tom also was the 1st President of the Capitol Hill Chapter of the Federal Bar Association whose members included over 300 Attorneys working on the Hill, and now has over 13,000 lawyer members worldwide.
TaxConnections is excited to have Tom Kerester guide our members in the new legislative tax policy being implemented in the 115th Congress. Tom brings a wealth of knowledge of the Congressional Tax Legislative Process. We are so fortunate to have him guide us through the steps and make it much easier for TaxConnections Members to get involved, especially since we are mindful of how busy you are!
We would greatly appreciate your input, comments and suggestions as TaxConnections moves forward to get the information on the new Tax Legislation under President-Elect Trump to you as quickly as we can.
Kat Jennings, CEO
The Congressional Tax Legislative Process
A major comprehensive tax proposal is expected to be submitted to the 115th Congress shortly after President-Elect Trump is inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. The proposal is expected to be far-reaching and comprehensive, and thus is expected to be covered widely in much of the social media, as are dates of public hearings, and much of the Treasury testimony.
Procedurally, the proposal will be forwarded by the White House to the House of Representatives and referred to the powerful House Committee on Ways and Means. Public hearings in that Committee should begin shortly thereafter, allowing Members of Congress and their professional and technical staffs to digest those proposals.
Some of the talented technical staffs that will be, or could be, attending those congressional hearings and involved in those reviews and analysis will be (a) the Majority and Minority staffs of Ways & Means, (b) the highly regarded Staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation that serves numerous Congressional Committees, (c) the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that is involved in international tax treaties, (d) staffs of individual Members of Congress, (e) the Senate Finance Committee that later will consider the House-passed bill, (f) the staff of the Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Policy, (g) IRS attorneys in the Office of Chief Counsel that will ultimately draft proposed and final regulations implementing those new laws and, (h) attorneys in the House and Senate Legislative Counsel’s offices. You can Google these names and addresses.
ALERT: At this point, Members of Tax Connections should immediately begin to analyze those proposals as soon as available, and submit their comments to their elected Representative in their local office as well as their Congressional office in Washington, DC. A personal meeting with them is generally most helpful too, either separately or with taxpayers of similar interest. Copies of those comments should also be made available to some of the technical staffs mentioned above, particularly the Staff of the Joint Committee on Tax. It might also be helpful to provide a copy of your comments to Kat Jennings of Tax Connections. You can make a difference! Make it a high priority! Need help? Call Kat. With over 50 years of experience on Federal legislative issues in various capacities, I can, in coordination with Kat, recommend an approach you may wish to consider.
Generally, the first witness to testify at the open public hearings of the House Way & Means Committee will be the Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Policy. Procedurally, the Chairman of the Committee will be the 1st to question the Treasury Secretary. Next, the individual members of the Committee, alternatively, will have an opportunity to question the Secretary on the substance of specific proposals. Alternatively, meaning a Republican Member, then a Democrat Member, until every Member of the Committee has a chance to raise an issue or to clarify an issue.
ALERT: Ideally, it would be terrific if your Member of Congress could raise your specific concern with the Secretary during the hearings. Thus, the importance of getting your message to your Member of Congress and to selected congressional technical staffs on a timely basis.
Following the open public hearings, the Committee meets in Mark-Up sessions to finalize its draft of a bill. Traditionally, the Staff of the Joint Committee on Tax plays a key role in defining some of the technical and other policy issues addressed by Members. The Treasury technical and policy staff are also available for questions. Again, traditionally, the Mark-Up sessions are open to the public. But in any event, the technical staffs mentioned above could be expected to attend. It is in these sessions that individual Members of the Committee have an opportunity to offer any changes to the Administration proposals. Thus, I cannot stress enough, the importance of TC members getting their comments to their Members at the earliest time possible.
A list of the amendments to the Administration’s proposals approved by the Committee is generally broadcast in the social media. Those amendments should also be reviewed carefully by TC members.
The Committee then seeks a Rule from the House Rules Committee which dictates the rules for debating the bill in the House – the number of hours for debate, the allocation of time for the Parties, and the number of amendments that can be offered and considered. The House floor debate is then scheduled and often shown on public TV.
ALERT: TC Members should quickly analyze the Bill and alert Kat about any provisions that appear troubling to you. You may also want to alert your two Senators of the issue, as well as the Joint Tax Committee staff.
The House-passed bill is then forwarded to the Senate for consideration and referred to the Senate Finance Committee (SFC). Public hearings are then scheduled and generally the format followed in the Ways and Means Committee is followed in these hearings. The Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Policy opens the hearings with a summary of the Administration’s proposals, and outlines the amendments made to the proposal in the House-passed bill. That testimony is followed by testimony from business associations, individual tax experts, economists and other organizations. The technical congressional tax staffs mentioned above could also be expected to attend. Generally, a summary of statements made by selected witnesses before the Committee can be found in the social media. Committee press releases are also released.
Immediately following the public hearings, the Committee begins its Mark-Up of the House-Passed bill and is generally open to the public, with the usual congressional technical staffs attending. The professional courtesy followed in the Ways and Means Committee with respect to questions from (SFC) Members is followed here also. The Chairman starts with the opening statement followed by questions from the other Members in alternate order. Here again, the staff of the Joint Committee on Tax plays a key role in explaining provisions of the Bill, as well as of other amendments offered by SFC Members.
Generally, timely press releases are issued by the SFC as particular provisions, amendments, or parts of the bill are agreed to by SFC. Summaries of the SFC approved bill are generally prepared by the Joint Tax Committee staff and made available to the public, along with a comparison of the House-Passed Bill and the Bill as approved by the SFC.
ALERT: TC Members should analyze the Bill as approved by the SFC, and alert Kat with any troubling issues.
The Senate has no established Rules Committee, as does the House of Representatives. Thus, amendments can be offered on the Senate floor during debate of the Bill. Here again, summaries of proposed amendments are most often provided in technical tax publications and social media. And of course, the entire debate is published in the Congressional Record, the official record of the Congress.
A comparison of the House-Passed Bill and the Senate-Passed Bill is prepared by the technical staffs and generally available for review.
ALERT: TC Members should also carefully review that publication.
The Bill is then referred to a committee of selected senior Members of the both tax-writing committees to reconcile the differences. Here again, the Staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation play a key role in assisting those Members in the reconciliation process.
When the differences are approved by that select joint committee, the Bill is offered first in the House, and if passed, is referred to the Senate for a final vote. When both the House and the Senate pass the bill in identical form, it is sent to the President for approval.
Cautionary Note: Everyone communicating, verbally, or in writing, with Members of Congress and their staffs should be aware that all such communication could be construed as falling within the public domain, and as such, could be made public at any time. Hence, Members of TC should continue to be judicious in their comments.
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