Small business incentives, reforms to ACA taxes, and other proposals in Obama's FY 2017 budget could gain traction in 2016

Tweaks to enhanced Code Sec. 179 expensing and the high-dollar health care excise tax are two proposals in President Obama's fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget that could become law before the end of his term. President Obama released his FY 2017 budget proposals in February. Other proposals that could be passed by Congress include enhancements to small business tax incentives, expanded opportunities for retirement saving, revisions to the net investment income (NII) tax, and more.

Small businesses

A long-sought goal of many small businesses was made permanent by the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act): enhanced Code Sec. 179 expensing. President Obama proposed more tweaks to Code Sec. 179 expensing. Under the President's proposal, the annual expensing limitation would increase from an inflation-adjusted $500,000 to an inflation-adjusted $1 million. The phase-out threshold would remain at an inflation-adjusted $2 million level. President Obama also proposed to increase the deduction for start-up expenses and the tax break for small employers that obtain health coverage for their employees through SHOP.

High-cost health plans

Certain employer-sponsored health insurance plans (high-cost plans also known as "Cadillac plans") may be liable for an excise tax. Generally, if the aggregate cost of applicable employer-sponsored coverage provided to an employee exceeds a statutory dollar limit, adjusted annually, the excess benefit is subject to a 40 percent excise tax.

Originally, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) imposed the excise tax on high-cost health plans effective after 2017. The PATH Act delayed the excise tax on high dollar health plans until after 2019. President Obama has proposed to increase the excise tax threshold to the greater of the current law threshold or a "gold plan average premium."

Retirement savings

In his 2016 State of the Union Address, President Obama urged lawmakers to expand the availability of retirement savings plans, especially to part-time employees and workers at businesses without retirement plans. The President's FY 2017 budget follows through on some of these approaches. The President proposed to require employers in business for at least two years and having more than ten employees and offering no retirement plan to offer an automatic payroll-deduction IRA option. Another proposal would allow unaffiliated employers to maintain a single multiple-employer retirement plan.

NII tax

The ACA also created the NII tax to help fund health care reform. Generally, individuals with incomes over certain threshold amounts are subject to the 3.8 percent tax on NII. Under current law, the NII tax does not apply to self-employment earnings. The President has proposed to ensure that the 3.8 percent is paid (either through the NII tax or the Self-Employed Contributions Act (SECA)) by amending the definition of net investment income to include gross income and gain from any trades or businesses of an individual that is not otherwise subject to employment taxes.

Higher income individuals

President Obama renewed previous proposals to tighten tax breaks for higher income individuals. The so-called "Buffett Rule" would impose a minimum 30 percent tax on higher income taxpayers with large deductions and other tax preferences. Certain tax expenditures of higher income individuals would be capped at 28 percent. Tax rates on capital gains and qualified dividends would also be increased in individuals in the higher brackets.

EITC and other incentives

In 2012 and subsequent years, Congress made permanent some enhancements to the earned income tax credit (EITC). President Obama has proposed to continue this pattern of enhancements, by, among other changes, expanding the EITC to qualified taxpayers without children. Other proposals targeted to individuals' income include a second-earner credit (for two-earner families), reforms to the child and dependent care tax credit, and some enhancements to the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC).

Fossil fuels

As in past years, President Obama proposed to repeal fossil fuel tax preferences. The President also proposed a new revenue raiser: a fee of $10.25 (adjusted for inflation from 2016) per barrel on oil to be phased-in over a five year period beginning October 1, 2016. The fee would be collected on domestically produced as well as imported petroleum requirements.

If you have any questions about the President's proposals, please contact our office.

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