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BPAA Federal Policy Update - March 12

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  • Tax Foundation: Tax Reform Isn’t Done (report also attached) - What will the federal tax code look like in eight years? It's never good when the tax code leaves taxpayers and businesses wondering. You should be able to count on a stable tax code so that you can plan your future without fear of the goalposts moving. To help lawmakers stabilize our tax code (and to help you understand what to expect) we released an important new resource: Tax Reform Isn't Done. This comprehensive guide is a road map to what's next in tax reform. We cover:
  • Pending changes and expirations
  • What these scheduled changes mean for taxpayers, businesses, and the economy
  • What legislators should consider when deciding to allow or prevent provisions from expiring
  • Other areas of the tax code still in need of reform
  • Bloomberg Government: Treasury Issues Carried Interest Guidance for New Tax Law: “Regulations will be issued that will not allow them to avoid the three year holding period by using a pass through entity (‘S’ corporation),” Treasury says in statement. “We worked expeditiously to take this first step to clarify that S corporations are subject to the three year holding period for carried interest,” Treasury Sec. Steven T. Mnuchin says in statement. “Upcoming regulations will be effective beginning after December 31, 2017” Treasury says.
  • The Treasury Department and the IRS rolled out a new withholding calculator on Wednesday, in the hopes that taxpayers will mostly avoid any curveballs when they file for the first time under the new tax system next year. David Kautter, the acting IRS chief, said that there were two groups in particular who should take advantage of the tool to ensure they're withholding enough, Pro Tax's Aaron Lorenzo reported - two-income households and taxpayers who itemized in the past.
  • It might take until early fall for tax rules for pass-through companies to be ready, Kautter added, also per Aaron. Pass-throughs, which pay taxes through their owners' individual returns, got a 20 percent deduction in the new law, but tax experts say they have all sorts of questions about what income will qualify for the new deduction. Kautter did say that some kind of initial notice could come out earlier for pass-throughs, to offer some clues about what the regulations will say. 


  • Food Dive: Food and beverage industries warn of higher costs, job cuts from Trump tariffs - Food and beverage manufacturers have criticized President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement last week that the U.S. will impose a new 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminum imports. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told the business channel on Friday that Trump’s tariffs are "no big deal," noting that the increased cost would amount to six-tenths of a penny for a can of Campbell’s Soup. CPG makers, such as Campbell Soup, Kraft Heinz and General Mills, along with beverage makers like Coca-Cola and AB InBev, could be among industry companies impacted by these tariffs the most. A higher packaging cost is sure to raise the ire of a number of companies in the CPG space already struggling with tight margins and slumping sales. While the proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports has not been finalized or enacted, that’s not keeping food and beverage makers from opposing it.


  • Bloomberg Law: Labor Secretary Invites Businesses to Self-Report Wage Violations - Businesses can soon report overtime and minimum wage violations and avoid litigation, under a new initiative the labor secretary unveiled at a congressional hearing March 6. “Employees will receive 100 percent of back wages owed, without the costs of attorney fees,” Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta told House appropriators. “This will be reserved for companies that realize their mistakes, and they come forward. The intention is to get the money owed” to workers faster, he said. Starting in one month, the department plans to launch a pilot self-reporting program for about six months and then decide whether to continue the initiative, according to a DOL spokesman. The move from the DOL's Wage and Hour Division advances the administration's efforts to improve cooperation with employers by using a carrot instead of a stick. This marks another change in direction from the DOL under President Barack Obama. That administration emphasized thorough, targeted workplace investigations, frequently assessing double damages to make workers whole. Companies occasionally self-reported wage violations in the George W. Bush administration, sometimes leading to multimillion-dollar recoveries, before the program was disbanded under Obama. Worker advocates have criticized similar programs in the past, saying they may deny workers the chance to get double damages or a full three years of back pay that could arise from a full Wage and Hour Division investigation.
  • Bloomberg Government: Congress Willing to Aid Labor Dept., Ban Tip Skimming - A congressional solution is potentially in the works to muffle the Labor Department's tip pooling controversy. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and the GOP chairman of the House labor appropriations panel, with early support from a few Democrats, are pushing a legislative fix to block employers from retaining their workers’ tips, which they'd be permitted to do under a recent regulatory proposal. It comes after the department drew heated opposition from the left after scrapping an economic proposal showing that tip skimming by managers could cost workers as much as billions of dollars. Acosta, addressing the House subcommittee on labor spending March 6, announced that the White House Office of Management and Budget recently added a proposed solution to the list of items for appropriators to review as part of the ongoing budget process. This could come as a rider to the fiscal year 2018 spending bill that Congress is currently negotiating…Acosta, in his first public remarks since contention over the tip pooling rule has escalated this year, described the measure as adding “a simple sentence” to the Fair Labor Standards Act. Without this new language, the secretary said he's persuaded by a recent ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit that the DOL doesn't have the authority to block employers from controlling tips when they pay workers the full minimum wage. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the subcommittee chairman, said he'd support an appropriations addendum.
  • The Hill: House Dems offer bill to protect workers' tips - House Democrats are pushing legislation to stop employers from being able to pocket a portion of workers’ tips. Democratic Reps. Katherine Clark (Mass.) and Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) introduced the Tip Income Protection Act on Wednesday in response to a proposed rule from the Department of Labor (DOL) that will allow employers to pool the gratuities earned by employees who make the full minimum wage and split them with nontipped workers. Opponents have argued there’s nothing in the regulation to stop employers from stealing tips for themselves. Clark and DeLauro’s bill, however, would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to make all tips, even those that are pooled, the property of the employee not the employer. "Tipped workers — not their bosses — are entitled to their hard-earned dollars,” DeLauro said in a statement. "The biggest economic challenge of our time is that too many people are working in jobs that do not pay them enough to live on. Given that reality, it boggles my mind that the Trump administration would allow employers to pocket minimum wage workers' money, yet the recent DOL proposal would create that exact loophole.”
  • MarketWatch: Target announces expanded shipping services, $12 minimum wage - Target Corp. said Tuesday that it is expanding its delivery and shipping services and raising its minimum wage to $12 in 2018, part of the effort to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2020. Two-day shipping will now be available on hundreds of thousands of items. Drive Up, a service that brings online orders out to shoppers who drive to their local store for pickup, will expand from 50 to nearly 1,000 stores by the end of the year. A service that delivers in-store purchases to customers' homes the same day will expand from four New York City stores to all five boroughs and select stores in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington DC.
  • Washington Post: New evidence of the minimum wage doing what it’s supposed to do: Help low-wage workers - The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 since 2010, so more than half the states have acted on their own to raise their wage floor (many cities have done so too). Gould reports that a bunch of states, listed under the figure, raised their minimum wages over these years. Some did so due to legislation, either new or a phase-in of an already legislated increase; others did so because they index their wage floor to inflation (which should be, but isn’t, the law of the land; the real value of the federal minimum is constantly being eroded by inflation). The figure makes two important points. First, as you might expect, real low pay grew more than twice as fast in states that rose their minimum wages, about 5 percent versus 2 percent. Second, the gains are larger for women than men. That’s consistent with research by the Economic Policy Institute showing that minimum wage increases tend to reach more women than men, simply because women are more likely to earn low wages. Minimum wage analyst David Cooper finds that 56 percent of the beneficiaries of a hike in the federal wage floor to $15 by 2024 would be women. Then there’s this third point shown in the table below. With the help of Lexin Cai, I looked at the growth of employment, both overall and in three low-wage sectors (retail, leisure/hospitality, and food services, a subset of leisure), along with the decline in unemployment in these two sets of states. The reason for this bit of analysis is that some might claim that the wage gains in the states that raised their minimums came at the expense of jobs in those states. At least from this aggregate level, that’s not so. Both overall and in the lower-wage sectors, job growth was slightly faster in states that raised their wage floors and unemployment fell a bit more.


  • CNN: Calls for paid family leave are getting louder - Momentum is building in the fight for paid family leave. A number of big companies made headlines in recent years by expanding benefits for new parents. And a handful of cities and states have set up their own funds to provide paid parental leave when employers do not. Paid parental leave has gained broad support among Americans and has become a major talking point for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. The White House included a family leave plan in its 2019 budget proposal released Monday that aims to provide new parents with six weeks of paid leave. The budget didn't specify exactly how the benefit would work, but said the current unemployment insurance system, which workers and employers pay into and states administer, would serve "as a base." Adoptive parents would also be eligible for the paid leave. Under the White House plan, states would be responsible for creating their own individual parental leave programs.


  • Fortune: Trump's Video Game Panel Is Stacked Against the Gaming Industry - Donald Trump is holding a meeting with the video game industry Thursday, but the official list of attendees is very light on people who make games. Only two publisher executives will be present, as will the head of the industry’s trade group. But also present in the room are two of the most vocal critics of the industry, including one who coined the term “murder simulators,” referring to action games. Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Take-Two Interactive Software (makers of Grand Theft Auto), and Robert Altman, chairman and CEO of ZeniMax Media (owners of Bethesda, which publishes The Elder Scrolls, Fallout and Doom), are the only publishers scheduled to be at the meeting. Representatives from the Entertainment Software Association, the trade group for the industry, and the ESRB, which is responsible for age ratings on titles, will also be at the meeting. Activision and Electronic Arts, the industry’s two biggest publishers, did not send executives. Zelnick is an ardent defender of the industry’s first amendment rights. Altman will likely offer a spirited defense as well, but has the complication of having Trump’s younger brother Robert S. Trump as a member of his board of directors.
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