Amy Sarfo of Law360 published a fascinating piece entitled, “11 Power Players In 2015 Business Tax Reform.” I’ve attached the article below:
Momentum in Washington is growing behind the idea of a 2015 tax reform package, but lawmakers won’t be able to realize that possibility on such a tight deadline without a phalanx of power players to push the effort along.
Earlier this month, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said “tax reform is a 2015 thing for sure,” but added that if it is going to be done this year, it has to be done by the end of the summer, before the government starts a new budget cycle. If lawmakers are able to come to a consensus, they likely will focus on business-only reform first, although Republicans generally want to address business and individual tax reform together.
That deadline begs the question — who has enough clout to push business-only reform by summer? Below, Law360 lists 11 major power players attorneys say will be essential in the process.
1. President Barack Obama
Over the course of his presidency, Obama has pushed for smaller tax changes in specific sectors, but hasn’t appeared to prioritize a comprehensive overhaul. Now that he is in the sunset of his presidency, Obama has amped up his reform rhetoric and is particularly interested in using the tax code to shift money from corporations and high-worth taxpayers to the middle class. It’s a promising shift, but attorneys say that the buck starts and stops with the White House.
“He’s been the most reluctant person in the reform process and unless he agrees to participate in a meaningful way it just won’t happen,” Dave Kautter, head of McGladrey LLP’s Washington national tax team, told Law360.
2. Orrin Hatch & 3. Paul Ryan
As the top Republicans in the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee, respectively, the duo have taken reform to heart. Upon becoming Finance Committee chairman, Utah’s Hatch quickly organized five tax reform working groups with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and has been a strong advocate for a revenue neutral plan. Ryan, on the other hand, pitched his own budget proposal when he was chairman of the House Budget Committee, and has voiced a willingness to work with the Obama administration now that he is Ways and Means chairman.
4. Ron Wyden
Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, has been deeply interested in tax reform for years — he sponsored a broad tax reform plan in 2013 and when he briefly helmed the Senate Finance Committee in 2014, he pegged tax reform as a top priority for the committee.
In his current role as the Committee’s top Democrat, Wyden’s power lies in the fact that he seeks bipartisan connections in his legislative efforts — Wyden has been working closely with Hatch and will likely be a bridge between Senate Republicans and Democrats.
“Because there are only 54 Republicans in the Senate, the Republicans do not have enough votes (60) to end debate in the Senate. Therefore, at least six Democrats would have to be in favor of any tax reform bill for it to become law,” Julie Bradlow, counsel at Moore & Van Allen PLLC, told Law360. “As the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Wyden will be an influential voice in consideration of tax reform legislation.”
5. Mark Mazur
Mazur, who is the assistant secretary for tax policy in the U.S. Department of the Treasury, has largely been quiet in the tax reform debate, and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has seemingly been the administration’s spokesman on tax matters. But attorneys anticipate that Mazur will assume a much more public role once the reform ball gets rolling.
“If the process moves forward politically, Mark is the top tax technical and policy person for the administration,” Miller & Chevalier Chtd. tax partner Marc Gerson told Law360. “Current discussions have been in the context of the budget so I can understand why the secretary is out front, but if an effort really gets going, and given how complex tax reform would be, Mazur’s experiences would be brought to bear.”
6. Robert Stack
This summer’s wave of corporate inversions — where U.S. companies moved their tax homes abroad to more attractive tax climates — brought heightened attention to the nation’s aging tax code and its international competitiveness. In a fully global business market, lawmakers won’t be able to address business-only tax reform without considering the international ramifications. That’s where Robert Stack, the Treasury Department’s deputy assistant secretary for international tax affairs will have to step in.
“Because international tax reform is key to comprehensive U.S. tax reform, Mr. Stack will likely play an important role in shaping that aspect of tax reform legislation,” Bradlow added.
7. John Boehner & 8. Mitch McConnell
As stewards of the GOP’s agenda, Speaker of the House Boehner and Senate Majority Leader McConnell could easily put a death grip on tax reform efforts if they believe that reform negotiations could hinder the party’s chances of winning the White House in 2016.
“They control the legislative agendas in the two chambers and if either one of those two decides that tax reform isn’t in the best interest of GOP, the ability of its members to bring up those bills will be very limited as they control what comes to the floor,” Kautter said. “If they’re not on board not much happens.”
9. Tom Price & 10. Mike Enzi
Both Republican lawmakers belong to key tax writing and budget committees, meaning their voices will likely be heard on both ends of the process. Price is chairman of the House’s Budget Committee and also sits on the Ways and Means Committee, while Enzi chairs the Senate’s Budget Committee and belongs to the Senate Finance Committee.
11. Jonathan Talisman
Talisman is the head of powerhouse lobbying group Capital Tax Partners, which is Washington’s largest independent tax legislative and regulatory consulting firm. Talisman, who was assistant secretary for tax policy in the Clinton administration, has deep government roots, thanks to previous positions as Democratic chief counsel for the Senate Finance Committee and legislation counsel for the Joint Committee on Taxation.
“What makes Jon special is not only his understanding of the political process, but his deep and broad knowledge of technical tax concepts that he’s able to explain in understandable terms,” Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP tax partners Jeffrey Friedman and Todd Lard told Law360. “Jon is looked to as an honest voice and one who recognizes the implications of the positions he is advancing.”