Business executives are giving mixed predictions on when and if tax reform will finally happen in Washington, in a new survey.
The latest Business Tax Reform Barometer survey from the Tax Council and Ernst & Young polled approximately 1,000 business executives, tax directors, government relations representatives and professional service providers in June to assess their views on tax and other tax policy issues.
The survey respondents believe tax reform will occur within the next several years, with a 67 percent likelihood that tax reform will happen in 2018 or earlier. Respondents to the June survey indicated a 41 percent likelihood that tax reform will happen in 2017 or earlier. They believe 2017 is the most likely year for tax reform, at a 31% likelihood. In an earlier survey in January 2015, respondents indicated a 52 percent likelihood that tax reform would happen in 2017 or earlier.
Business tax professionals view businesses-only or international-only tax reform as more likely than a comprehensive reform affecting both individual and corporate taxation. Sixteen percent of the respondents to the June survey believe tax reform will affect only corporations, all businesses including pass-throughs (22 percent), or international (22 percent), while 40 percent think reform will be comprehensive. In the January survey, which did not include the option for an international only reform, 12 percent and 47 percent of the poll respondents thought tax reform would affect only corporations or all businesses including pass-throughs, respectively, while 40% thought reform would be comprehensive.
Sixty-one percent of the respondents in June expect tax reform will be revenue-neutral, rather than raise revenue, while 30 percent believe it will raise revenue, and 9 percent think it will reduce revenue. While this finding is consistent with the January 2015 and October 2014 surveys, it represents a significant shift from most of the prior Business Tax Reform Barometer surveys, in which 50 percent to 60 percent of respondents generally thought tax reform would raise revenue.
Respondents gave a median expectation of 25 percent that the House Ways and Means Committee chairman will release a specific tax reform plan by the end of 2015, down from a 50 percent median likelihood in the January survey. Tax professionals provided medians of 10 percent and 1 percent that the Ways and Means Committee will mark-up tax reform legislation and that Ways and Means Committee will pass this legislation, respectively, and respondents gave a 0 percent median likelihood that the House will pass tax reform legislation.
Respondents thought it almost equally likely (20 percent median likelihood) that the Senate Finance Committee chairman would release a specific tax reform plan by the end of 2015. They also have an equal expectation (0 percent median likelihood) that the full Senate will pass tax reform legislation by the end of 2015.
Survey participants generally thought (80 percent) that the passage of Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA, by Congress would not make tax reform more likely. Respondents gave a 72 percent likelihood that the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, trade agreement will happen in 2017 or earlier, and they believe 2015 and 2016 are the most likely years for the TPP to be enacted with a 28 percent likelihood.
Respondents thought it less likely (60 percent likelihood) that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will be enacted in 2017 or earlier, with most respondents believing 2017 to be the most likely year with a 24 percent likelihood.
Respondents think the OECD Base Erosion and Profit Shifting, or BEPS, project will result in the most significant change in global income taxation in the year 2017 (35 percent median response), as compared to 2015 (5 percent median expectation), 2016 (20 percent median expectation), 2018 (25 percent median expectation), or not at all (25 percent median expectation).
Fifty-four percent of business professionals believe tax revenues will be raised for the Highway Trust Fund and related infrastructure spending. Respondents indicated funding is most likely to be provided by miscellaneous measures (50 percent) or an increase in gas tax (20 percent).
At the end of last year, Congress enacted a one-year extension of the expiring business tax provisions through the end of 2014. Respondents were asked about the likelihood that the major expiring tax provisions will be extended again. They found it more likely (69 percent average response) the tax provisions will be extended in the second half of 2015 than in the first half of 2015 (9 percent average response). Others anticipate extensions occurring in 2016 or later, or not at all (average responses of 19 percent and 4 percent, respectively).
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