Senate, House tax reform proposals differ in key ways

Written on Nov 16, 2017

Federal tax reform is developing at a breakneck pace.

On Nov. 2, the House Ways & Means Committee released HR1, the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” – its version of tax reform which has already seen amendments.

On Nov. 9, the Senate Finance Committee released a conceptual description of its version, also termed the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.”

The House proposal outlines new personal and corporate income tax brackets and rates, repeal of AMT, an increased standard deduction and the elimination of the deduction for personal exemptions among many other changes. The plan would result in a $1.41 trillion loss in revenue over 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. The Senate bill started its markup process in the Finance Committee on Nov. 13 with a vote expected by the end of the week.

While some of the provisions of the Senate bill mirror the House bill, there are some key differences which, as we have discussed, have the potential to push a resolution to the very end of the year.

In the Senate approach, the current code’s seven individual income tax brackets would remain, but the rates would change to 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and a top rate of 38.5%. Single taxpayers with income greater than $500,000 and married taxpayers filing jointly with income greater than $1 million would apply the 38.5% rate, which is lower than the top rate in the House bill. The standard deductions would increase to $12,000 for single taxpayers, and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly, both slightly less than the House bill provides for.

Again, in the Senate approach, individuals with pass-through investments would see a 17.4% deduction for “domestic qualified business income,” which would not apply to specified service businesses unless the individual’s taxable income does not exceed $250,000, or $500,000 for married individuals filing jointly. The deduction is phased out above those limitations.

Under the Senate plan, the child tax credit increases to $2,000, more than the House bill. The credit would be modified to allow a $500 nonrefundable credit for qualified dependents other than qualifying children, and sets the threshold phase out to $500,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly.

Deductions for mortgage interest would be retained at the current level of $1 million of acquisition indebtedness; however, the deduction for interest on home equity indebtedness would be repealed. Estate taxes would remain, with the exemption being doubled from its current amount. The House doubles the exemption but eliminates the estate tax after 6 years.

Alimony rules and the deductibility of medical expenses exceeding 10% of a taxpayer’s AGI would be retained, unlike the House bill. The Senate markup calls for a reduction of the individual shared responsibility payment under the ACA to zero.

The Corporate rate under the Senate’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act falls to 20%, but that rate change would be delayed until 2019.

The Senate Finance Committee language under consideration is 253 pages (about half the length of the House bill) with suggested changes released Nov. 14 available here at 103 pages. A two-page highlight summary is also available. Both the House and Senate bills are in active consideration, with reconciliation of the two, should the bills be approved by their respective bodies, expected in the very near future.

You can stay on top of developments and read a side-by-side comparison of the Senate and House approaches at


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  1. Tom Kalb | Nov 16, 2017
    I am assuming that the exemptions will be indexed just as the tax brackets are but I have not seen that in the summaries provided.
  2. Sue Conn | Nov 16, 2017
    Why not agree on a few points and pass that. Then pick a couple of areas of contention and iron those out till they can be passed and piece meal this until agreements can be made!!! Updates can always be made as they go. Wish there were more adults working through this....

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