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Uhl: Cattle raisers find points of interest in tax reform

Nov. 10, 2017 at 11:04 p.m.


President Donald Trump has been working to boost the U.S. economy and bring jobs back to this country. Since taking office in January, he has attempted to fund federal tax reform with dollars freed up from the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and with taxes on imported business inputs.

Neither of these attempts have been successful, which means the White House and Republican leaders have a tremendous challenge to overcome if they want to reform the taxes we pay as individuals and business owners. The dollars my family is able to keep in our business are dollars we will invest in ranching and the businesses that support our ranch.

My family ranches south of San Angelo. My son is working there now, learning how to run things and be a part of continuing our business. Meanwhile, I spend days in my law office in San Antonio and in San Angelo working on behalf of my family and ranching clients who, just like us, are trying to keep a family business going.

I've been fortunate to serve as chair of the Property Rights and Tax Committee of Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, and to continue to serve as a director. Watching what Washington does with our personal and business taxes is of great personal interest, and I know any changes made by federal leaders are of great interest to my fellow cattle raisers.

So, even though Trump has hit some snags with funding federal tax reform, he has not given up.

On Sept. 27, the White House and Republican leaders of Congress and the leaders of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees released a short, readable document called "Unified Framework for Fixing our Broken Tax Code." I highly recommend you download and read the document. Type the title into any internet search engine to find it. The House also recently released additional details of its plan, although those details are sure to change as negotiations progress.

The builders of the framework want to simplify individual tax rates. Right now, we have seven tax brackets that range from 10 percent to 39.6 percent. The authors recommend four tax brackets — 12, 25, 35 and 39.6 percent. They also increased the standard deduction for married couples filing jointly to $24,000, up from $12,000. They recommend the same treatment for individual filers, increasing the standard deduction to $12,000, up from $6,000.

Most itemized deductions are eliminated under the new proposal. From what I have read and learned, their thinking is that most deductions we have today will be unnecessary because the tax rates will be going down and we simply won't need them. However, the authors retain the deductions for home mortgage interest, state and local property taxes and charitable giving.

TSCRA has worked for decades to get the onerous death tax repealed. Under this framework, after five years the death tax will be fully and permanently repealed. In the meantime, tax exemption rates are immediately doubled for individuals and couples, and are indexed for inflation. The step-up in basis is also preserved.

An important reform for small business entities like partnerships, sole proprietorships, LLCs and subchapter S corporations is that income taxes from those business entities, on an individual return, are capped at 25 percent. There is also a provision that for at least a five-year period, any capital investments made after Sept. 27, 2017, can be immediately expensed. This is a good reform for business.

While most of the components of this tax reform framework are positive and accomplish many of the cattle raiser association's longstanding highest priorities, changes are likely, and two of the main funding mechanisms for it have been terminated, at least for the foreseeable future.

In the process of producing a tax reform bill we have to be certain that some of the most important parts of the tax code we rely on don't get washed away. Association members have given clear direction to the TSCRA leaders and staff who are working on the tax reform issue. Members passed resolutions that support retaining the 1031 like kind exchange and business expense deductions. Both are retained in the first version of the House bill. Association members also recommitted to the association's policy to revise estate and gift taxes to reduce the burden on family ranches. These policies provide us with the tools the association can use to advocate for tax reform on behalf of the members.

This is a great time to get involved. Contact your congressmen and let them know how you feel about federal tax reform. Your voice, as the business owner who will be paying taxes and trying to keep your family ranch going, is the important voice they need to hear.

— Arthur Uhl, a San Antonio lawyer and San Angelo rancher, is a director of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.

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