What was shaping up to be another year of tax gridlock in Washington has, like seemingly everything else, been disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak.

Law firm Miller & Chevalier checked in with tax executives at 34 U.S. companies to gauge what legislative and administrative tax proposals being considered would be most helpful to their businesses and their likelihood of passage or implementation.

The results reflect cautious optimism. Nearly 70% of the surveyed tax managers expect employment tax relief to be passed, trailed by payroll tax relief (65%), enhanced charitable deduction provisions (56%), and industry-specific relief (53%).

Many expect Congress to pass net operating loss relief (47%), interest deduction limitation relief (47%), and enhanced R&D incentives (44%).

As to what type of coronavirus-related tax legislation would be most helpful to their business, payroll tax relief and employment tax relief tied for the top spot, with 65% each (survey participants could check “all that apply”). Majorities also pointed to interest expense deduction limitation relief (62%) and net operating loss relief (53%).

“Crisis-specific tax policy must walk the delicate line of providing relief to workers on the one hand, without unduly burdening businesses on the other,” the law firm wrote in its survey report. “Democrats, for instance, are resistant to any provisions that might be viewed as giving handouts to ‘big business’ ­— a concern now playing out as various proposals move through Congress.”

The Trump administration and Congress are currently considering some combination of incentives for individual taxpayers, including payroll tax relief and the issuance of direct cash payments.

And as the economic crisis deepens, a relief package including employer payroll tax relief, net operating loss relief (such as the reinstatement of a carryback period), and relief from the interest expense deduction limitation is currently being negotiated between administration officials and the Senate.

Surveyed tax managers were also asked what administrative actions the IRS or Treasury Department (or both) could take to address the crisis that would be most helpful to their business.

Three quarters (75%) said “defer income tax filing and payment deadlines.” Almost as many (68%) said “extend deadline related to examinations and appeals” and “waive penalties and interest” (65%).

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