Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons, both D-Delaware, joined their colleagues on bicameral legislation to repeal a massive tax break for a small group of high-income taxpayers that Republicans included in the coronavirus relief bill.
The legislation would do away with provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act that the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation estimates will reduce government revenue by $160 billion over ten years, and that would overwhelmingly benefit high-income taxpayers.
Together, the Republican provisions are among the costliest parts of the CARES Act, despite having no real connection to battling coronavirus or its economic fallout.
“During this unprecedented public health crisis, we have a responsibility to focus on the families who need help the most — not the wealthy or well-connected,” said Carper. “This legislation will help get money to small businesses in Delaware that are in dire straits through no fault of their own, while also safeguarding taxpayer dollars. Our priority must be helping the people who are hurting right now and providing support to state and local governments that will otherwise have to cut essential services during this crisis.”
“Tens of millions of Americans are in the midst of a real economic crisis right now, so we need to ensure that the federal government’s response is focused on those in need,” said Coons. “We have much more work to do to get our economy through this crisis, including additional support to families and desperately needed support for state and local governments. We should repeal this $160 billion tax break to high-income Americans and instead focus on families in need.”
The Republican provisions — sections 2303 and 2304 of the CARES Act — allow high-income taxpayers to use losses in certain years to avoid paying taxes in other years. Among other things, the changes allowed high-income taxpayers to claim refund checks for the 2018 and 2019 tax years — before the coronavirus crisis hit. And unlike programs in the CARES Act that required employers use benefits to maintain payroll and support workers, sections 2303 and 2304 let high-income taxpayers keep the benefits with no strings attached.
Only after the Senate had already voted on the CARES Act did the full cost of the Republican provisions become clear. According to an analysis from the JCT requested April 9, just 43,000 individual tax filers covered by one of the Republican provisions would see their tax liability fall by a combined $70.3 billion in 2020. Nearly 82% of those who will benefit from that provision make $1 million or more, with 95% making more than $200,000.
The tax benefits from the Republican provisions dwarf payments flowing to working Americans. Based on the JCT’s analysis, high-income tax filers benefiting from one of the provisions will see an average benefit of $1.6 million this year alone. In contrast, direct payments to most Americans under the CARES Act are capped at $1,200.
This bill would repeal the Republican provisions and, in their place, add a provision designed to help small companies struggling to stay afloat. This provision would be available to most companies with less than $15 million in receipts. Unlike the Republican provisions, the new provision would only apply to 2020 and would offer taxpayers advanced refunds of up to $100,000 now to give them cash when they need it.
Analysis of these provisions recommending the approach taken by this legislation is available at tpc.io/2xoPxJm.