Republicans Flesh Out Tax Reform 2.0, Taking Aim at Retirement Issues

A trio of bills introduced before the House Ways and Means Committee this week offer the first detailed look at Republican Congressional leaders’ hopes for “Tax Reform 2.0,” which include many initiatives supported broadly by retirement industry stakeholders. 

Republican members of the House Ways and Means Committee have introduced three bills aimed at advancing their “Tax Reform 2.0” agenda ahead of the November mid-terms, including the “Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act of 2018,” the “Family Savings Act of 2018,” and the “American Innovation Act of 2018.”

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, suggests the three bills “collectively build on the growing economic successes of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.”

“These bills constitute Republicans’ Tax Reform 2.0 package and will lock in the individual and small business tax cuts made law in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, make it easier for families and businesses to save for retirement, and boost American innovation by growing startup businesses,” he adds.

The most wide-ranging of the proposals is H.R. 6760, the Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act, which seeks to make permanent many of the temporary tax cuts implemented as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Among other changes, under H.R. 6760, the near-doubling of the standard deduction would be made permanent, along with the doubled child tax credit and the 20% pass-through deduction for businesses.

The second bill, H.R. 6757, or “the Family Savings Act,” is probably of the most relevance for retirement industry stakeholders—as it includes many of the provisions written into the popular Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act. Title I of the bill would allow for wider adoption of multiple employer plans, referred to here as “pooled employer plans.” Title I further seeks to ease the offering of safe harbor 401(k) plans, and it would adjust “certain taxable non-tuition fellowship and stipend payments treated as compensation for individual retirement account (IRA) purposes.”

Other sections of Title I of the Family Savings Act seek to repeal the maximum age for traditional IRA contributions, and to prohibit plans from making loans “through credit cards and other similar arrangements.” Additionally, this part of the bill includes proposals for improving the portability of lifetime income investments: “Except as may be otherwise provided by regulations, a trust forming part of a defined contribution plan shall not be treated as failing to constitute a qualified trust … solely by reason of allowing—(i) qualified distributions of a lifetime income investment, or (ii) distributions of a lifetime income investment in the form of a qualified plan distribution annuity contract, on or after the date that is 90 days prior to the date on which such lifetime income investment is no longer authorized to be held as an investment option under the plan.”

Other items addressed in Title I include the treatment of custodial accounts on termination of section 403(b) plans; clarification of retirement income account rules relating to church-controlled organizations; exemption from required minimum distribution rules for individuals with certain account balances; clarification of treatment of certain retirement plan contributions picked up by governmental employers for new or existing employees; and elective deferrals made by members of the “ready reserve of a reserve component of the armed forces.”

Title II of the Family Savings Act provides for certain technical modifications of nondiscrimination rules “aimed to protect older, longer service participants.” Likely of some interest to retirement industry stakeholders, Title II calls for further “study of appropriate Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation premiums.”

Apart from calling for an expansion of 529 college savings plans and establishing “penalty free withdrawals from retirement plans for individuals in case of birth of child or adoption,” Title III calls for the creation of a tax law framework supporting the creation of “tax-exempt universal savings accounts.” These would basically be tax-advantaged savings accounts with an annual contribution limit of $2,500.

The third and most narrowly focused bill introduced this week is formally titled H.R. 6756, the “American Innovation Act of 2018.” It runs just 15 pages and calls for various simplifications and expansions of tax deductions for start-up organization expenditures.