Federal Tax Plan = Meaningful Cuts More Than Comprehensive Reform

The “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” (H.R. 1) has finally arrived! The long-awaited details – over 400 pages worth – are now out there for all to debate. This is a debate that will play out before the House Republican Ways and Means Committee this week. Much of the public discourse will focus on how it impacts individuals, but for the business community it is the taxation of businesses, large and small, that is of the most significance.

The plan includes a reduction of the corporate rate from 35% to 20%, an important and meaningful step. It also caps the taxation of income derived from pass-throughs (S corporations, LLCs, partnerships and sole proprietorships) at 25%. Key provisions are outlined below. And if you are truly into tax law, the full bill is also available, as is a section-by-section summary.

Now you may note that this legislation is labeled a tax cut, not tax reform. And while many will call it that, it is probably better characterized as a tax cut bill. Cuts are good, and these measures will certainly be the impetus for some level of economic growth. But the trillion dollar questions remain: How much will it spur in gross domestic product (GDP) growth? And, can that realistically be enough to offset the projected reductions in tax collections?

Nobody can really know the answers to these politically-charged questions. But as you read the “scoring” of this legislation (to be published by the Congressional Budget Office after passage out of the House Ways and Means Committee), you may consider these items for context: the GDP growth rate in the United States averaged 3.22% from 1947 until 2017; GDP has pleasantly surprised people by breaking the 3% mark the last couple quarters; and the GDP will probably need to go a good bit higher to prevent the bill from adding substantially to the already staggering federal deficit. So listen for what growth rates are assumed in the projections that will be discussed and debated – and draw your own conclusions.

Key provisions affecting businesses

  • Reduces the corporate tax rate: The rate will drop to 20% from the current 35% and is designed to be permanent.
  • Establishes a repatriation tax rate: The repatriation rate on overseas assets for U.S. companies would be as high as 12%. The bill also may include a mandatory repatriation of all foreign assets. Illiquid assets would be taxed at a lower rate, spread out over a longer period than liquid assets like cash.
  • Creates a 25% rate for pass-through businesses: Instead of getting taxed at an individual rate for business profits, people who own their own business would pay at the so-called pass-through rate. (There will be some guardrails on what kinds of businesses can claim this rate to avoid individuals abusing the lower tax.)

Key provisions affecting individuals

  • Creates new individual income brackets:
    • 12% for income up to $45,000 for individuals and $90,000 for a married couple
    • 25% up to $200,000 individual/$260,000 couples
    • 35% up to $500,000 individual/$1 million couples
    • 6% over $500,000 individual/$1million couples
  • Caps state and local property tax deduction at $10,000, but does NOT cap income or sales tax deductions.
  • Eliminates the estate tax: The threshold for the tax, which applies only to estates with greater than $5.6 million in assets during 2018, would double to over $10 million; the plan then phases out the tax after six years.
  • Does NOT change taxation of 401(k) plans.
  • Increases the child tax credit to $1,600 from $1,000. The bill would also add a credit of $300 for each non-child dependent or parent for five years, after which that provision would expire.
  • Limits home mortgage interest deduction: On new-home purchases, interest on loans up to $500,000 would be deductible. (The current limit is $1 million.)
  • Nearly doubles the standard deduction: To avoid raising taxes on those currently in the 10% tax bracket, the standard deduction for all taxes would increase to $12,000 for individuals (up from $6,350) and $24,000 for married couples (up from $12,700).
  • Eliminates most personal itemized deductions and many credits. The only deductions preserved explicitly in the plan are for charitable gifts and edited home-mortgage interest.
  • Repeals the alternative minimum tax (AMT). The tax, which forces people who qualify because of an outsized number of deductions, would be eliminated under the legislation.

Full policy highlights of the bill can be found here.

Keep in mind this is the House’s plan and it will be subject to a different form of scrutiny in the Senate. So regardless all the prior coordination among those working together on this effort for months, some (perhaps many) things will change – they always do!

As for the timeline, it’s hard to say. But we do know that the House Ways and Means Committee will begin hearing amendments this week, and the process could take several days. A vote on the bill by the full House, as it is passed out of Ways and Means, is anticipated to come as early as November 13. From there it goes to the Senate Finance Committee, then full Senate. Optimists hope for something to pass before the end of the year. However, don’t be surprised if the debate isn’t carried over into the beginning of 2018.

Indiana’s delegation members are also weighing in with their views on the new tax bill. Chief among them is Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02), a member of the pivotal House Ways and Means Committee: “Hoosiers deserve every opportunity to achieve success and live the American Dream, and that’s what tax reform is all about. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will help American businesses expand, invest and hire more workers, and it will let middle-class families keep more of the money they earn. It’s time to fix our broken tax code and level the playing field for hardworking Americans by once again making America the best place in the world to do business.”

Resource: Bill Waltz at (317) 264-6887 or email: bwaltz@indianachamber.com 

Tech Talk: Be Part of the Talent Solution

You don’t need anyone to tell you about the workforce/talent challenges that companies across the state are facing. The tech and innovation sectors, of course, are not alone in dealing with this dilemma.

Solutions must be both short and long term. Think coding schools and other training opportunities as more immediate; reaching deeper into the K-12 system to introduce potential careers at an earlier age as being on the other end of the spectrum.

But a message we’ve shared, no matter the business or industry, is to be part of that solution. Don’t just point out the problems. Don’t blame others unless you’re willing to help produce answers.

One way that everyone can contribute is to Share Your Road. It’s not just a phrase, but a coordinated initiative to introduce young people to the possibilities and what they can and should be doing to help reach those career destinations.

The Indiana Chamber Foundation and Indiana INTERNnet are among the Share Your Road partners, part of the Roadtrip Indiana initiative that sent three students on the road earlier this year. A public television series in 2018 will highlight what they learned.

See some of those who have helped pave the way thus far and take the time to inspire others at https://indiana.shareyourroad.com.

Share Your Road

Tech Talk: Guidance, Insights From the ‘Rise’ Experts

Last week’s Rise of the Rest tour stop in Indianapolis was a powerful testament to the continued emergence of central Indiana’s tech and innovation prowess. Before sharing some of the panel insights and a few observations, a little dose of reality must be included.

This was the 31st stop in recent years for AOL co-founder Steve Case and his traveling team. That means a lot of other cities and regions are also upping their games. In other words, we must keep advancing. Plenty in the Midwest and beyond are also pulling out all the stops to attract innovators, entrepreneurs and the jobs that come with their ideas.

Union 525A daylong series of events included a fireside chat at The Union 525 (recall our BizVoice® story earlier this year on the then emerging venue). Case, author/investor J.D. Vance, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai and former U.S. chief technology officer Megan Smith shared these gems, among others:

  • Case referred to ExactTarget as the “type of breakout iconic success that puts cities on the map.” He added that Indianapolis should be proud of what has been accomplished “but the next five to 10 years is the time to really accelerate.”
  • Calling the internet the “great equalizer,” Pai contends: “To me, no issue for the FCC is greater than closing the digital divide.”
  • Giving the example of doctors serving in the surgeon general role, Smith reminds that it’s important to “make sure entrepreneurs are in the room when determining entrepreneurship policy.” (A dictionary entry on that might point to Indiana and the 2017 legislative session).
  • Vance, speaking of the “downstream effects of the start-up economy” and the need for additional talent: “How do we take that person who has been out of the labor force and bridge the gap – marshal the resources that are on the sidelines.”

Case wrote The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future. He notes the first wave was a decade-long effort (with 300 partners) in going from 3% of Americans online an average of one hour a week in 1985 to truly getting America online. The second wave was building out software services with a focus on apps, not partnerships.

“The third wave is integrating the internet in a much more pervasive way. It’s not about software but getting people and companies to integrate. Companies that think they can go it alone will fail. It’s the old proverb: If you want to go quickly, you can go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Asked about lessons they were taking away from their day in Indianapolis, several agreed on the strong culture and passion in the community. Vance added, “Entrepreneurs who had success are reinvesting in the ecosystem. It absolutely makes a difference. It’s not just the money, but the mentoring and the relationships.”

A student in the audience sought their advice for a young entrepreneur …:

Vance: “Don’t think you have to be the person with the idea. Being the fourth, fifth, 12th person in a high-growth company is a good thing.” (Stay tuned for a similar local sentiment in the coming weeks).

Pai: “Seek out people who fascinate you. People are happy to talk with you and share ideas.” (That is certainly the case in Indiana).

Case: “Pick a battle worth fighting. Don’t pick an easy problem. You only live once.” He recalls this comment from Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it happens.”

Tax Reform the Talk of Fly-in

More than 100 of the state’s top business leaders descended on D.C. this week for the Indiana Chamber’s Fly-in event with our congressional delegation.

Attendees received meaningful and timely information from their representatives and senators through policy briefings, special dinner discussions and office visits.

Tax reform was the hot topic. How ironic that while we were D.C.-bound that President Donald Trump would be heading to Indianapolis to roll out his tax reform plan for the first time, and taking nearly half of the Indiana delegation with him on Air Force One for the announcement. But almost all Hoosier delegation members made it back in time to address their business constituents.

The tax reform message the Indiana Chamber contingent delivered to lawmakers in D.C. was that failure should not be an option – this needs to get done!

Senator Rob Portman of Ohio wraps up his remarks on tax reform – turning the floor over to Sen. Todd Young and Sen. Joe Donnelly for a Q&A session.

What caught our attention was how deeply committed everyone is to have tax reform cross the finish line. We felt that from our guest speaker, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, considered the Senate fiscal expert, to Indiana members in the House and Senate, including Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly.

They know it’s important not only to them politically but they also realize that it’s much needed policy.

President Trump’s tax reform framework, which assuredly was done in tandem with congressional leaders, includes actions that the Indiana Chamber and business community at-large have been championing for some time:

• Lowering the corporate tax rate from 35% – the highest in the world today, which drives investment, jobs and even corporate headquarters overseas
• Lowering the top personal income tax rate – which now offers disincentives for initiative, investment and risk-taking while reducing the number of brackets
• Eliminating the alternative minimum tax (AMT), which is overly complex and ineffective, and the estate tax, which endangers many family farms and small businesses
• Adopting a territorial system in which income earned overseas is not taxed in the U.S.

In our Q&A with Sens. Donnelly and Todd Young, they were asked to handicap the likelihood – on a one to 10 scale – of a meaningful tax reform package making it through Congress. Donnelly gave it a fairly hopeful six, while Young said he’s more confident today than even a few months ago and now puts the chances for success at seven-plus.

Young added: “At a time when the rate of business creation is lower than at any period in my own life, I feel like the time is now for tax reform. And the President made a compelling case in what I thought were pretty accessible terms (for Americans).”

Donnelly summed up his thoughts on the matter: “My view on tax reform is simple: I want to try to get to ‘yes’. I think it’s much better if it’s bipartisan. … I think it’s a much better message to the country.”

At our legislative briefing, Congressman Larry Bucshon (IN-08) offered his assessment as well. “As long as both sides don’t go to our corners and stick with our traditional talking points – trying to win an election in 2018 – we are going to get this done.”

Tax reform, if done correctly, would broaden the base while lowering rates across the board – spurring new investment, job creation, economic growth and, ultimately, tax revenues, without increasing the federal deficit.

Our tax code should look like it was designed on purpose for strategic economic growth.
We are hopeful that’s what will happen in the coming months.

A big thank you to our D.C. Fly-in sponsors for making the event possible: Zimmer Biomet (dinner sponsor), Allegion (cocktail reception sponsor), Build Indiana Council (legislative briefing sponsor), AT&T, The Boeing Company, Duke Energy, The Kroger Co., Old National Bank and Wabash Valley Power.

We hope to see everyone who attended – and more – back next year!

Indiana’s ‘Growing’ Industry: Wine (Plus, A Little History)

Of the many things Indiana is known for, being a hub for the wine industry might be a surprise.

Yet, Indiana is one of the top 20 wine-producing states in the nation and the Purdue Wine Grape Team (an extension service for the wine grape industry) points to impressive economic impact stats:

  • The wine industry’s annual impact on the economy in Indiana: $100 million
  • There are eight million bottles of Indiana-made wine sold annually; more than one million gallons of wine are produced annually
  • By 2019, there should be 100 wineries in the state (there were 37 in 2007)

And if the topic of wine pops up at your next social event or networking soiree and you need a new “Did you know?” (or just want to know more about the wine industry) here are a few interesting factoids:

  • Enology is the study of wine and winemaking
  • Viticulture is the science, production and study of grapes
  • Purdue offers four courses related to wine and food science and is home to the Richard P. Vine Enology Library, which contains about 2,000 bottles of wine; the school is home to three vineyards, including one near Vincennes

If you’re interested in the history of Indiana wine (including which town was the birthplace for the pre-Prohibition top 10 industry in the state), read this history from Indiana Wines.

And speaking of history, you might be interested in learning about some of the oldest wineries in the world, which pre-date Indiana’s now-booming industry by hundreds of years. A recent blog post from Wine Turtle (a group of wine enthusiasts out to make it easier for beginners to learn about wine) looks at the oldest wineries in the world (edited for length, but find the full post here):

  1. Staffelter Hof – Germany

The Staffelter Hof is one of the oldest wine companies in Germany. Its name is linked to a monastery in Belgium and its winemaking history goes back to the 862 AD.

  1. Château de Goulaine – France

The Loire Valley is a region famous for its spectacular landscapes, medieval castles, and exquisite wines. And one of the oldest wine companies in France and in the world is located here. The Château de Goulaine’s history goes back to the year 1000 when Marquis Goulaine founded the first winery in France.

The winery still belongs to the same family and produces some excellent Muscat and Vouvray wines. For this reason, the company is considered the oldest European family owned winery.

  1. Schloss Johanisberg – Germany

Although Germany is not one of the leader winemaking countries, it boasts some of the oldest wine companies. In fact, Schloss Johannisberg winery is the third on our list and its history begins in the year 1100.

  1. Barone Ricasoli – Italy

In 1141 Baron Ricasoli establishes the oldest wine company in Italy that still bears his name. The winery is located between Siena and Florence, an area particularly famous all over the world for the great quality of the wines.

  1. Antinori – Italy

39 years later, in 1180, in Italy emerges the second oldest wine company of the country, the fifth in the world. The Antinori family started producing wine in the Florentine countryside before moving to Florence in 1202.

  1. Schloss Vollrads – Germany

Back to Germany, we have to mention a wine company founded in 1211 that became famous mainly for its Rieslings, the Schloss Vollrads winery.

State Wants to Hear From You on How to Streamline Small Businesses Reporting

Cutting red tape for Indiana’s job creators is key to making our state a better place for small businesses to expand and hire more Hoosier workers. To that end, during the 2017 legislative session, the Indiana Chamber supported House Bill 1157, Small Business Duplicative Reporting, which was authored by Rep. Doug Miller (R-Elkhart). The law is simple, but hopefully effective in generating ideas to make early-stage and small business interactions with state government in Indiana even more business-friendly.

As a result of the successful legislation, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation has set up an online survey to gather feedback from employers and government officials on instances of duplicative reporting.

The Indiana Chamber is encouraging small business owners and local governments to take part in the survey. It only takes about five minutes to complete and asks participants to identify situations where they are required by state law, rule or guideline to submit similar information to at least two state agencies. Duplicative information can include notifications, tax reports, employment information and other statistical data.

By helping to identify these issues, the state can work to streamline reporting processes or even eliminate some – which should save business owners time and money.

A Clearer Path for Indiana’s Innovation Sector

Last summer, the Indiana Chamber formed the Indiana Technology & Innovation Council. A large part of the group’s mission it to protect and advance the public policy interests of related organizations. The Indiana Technology & Innovation Council’s Tech Policy Committee developed an agenda going into the 2017 session with several significant objectives.

We are happy to report – thanks to the work of many – that the group’s first legislative session proved to be highly productive and rewarding, with several key policies to advance innovation, technology and entrepreneurship in Indiana set to become law.

These include enhancing early-stage and scale-up funding for promising Indiana business opportunities, an increased focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, better digital and physical connectivity with other parts of the world, funding for better use of big data and providing funding mechanisms to enhance regional infrastructure projects.

Management and Performance Hub Information Holds Promise
Indiana has been a leader in using government data to improve the delivery of services to its citizens. The Management and Performance Hub (MPH) is an evolving integrated data system that links government agency data and allows for data-driven analytics and research, which can help inform policy and improve the delivery of government services to come from that information. House Bill 1470, Government Data, authored by Rep. David Ober (R-Albion), was the main vehicle to codify the MPH and ensure it has maximum utility for taxpayers, government agencies, the Legislature and other external stakeholders.

The measure started off smoothly, but when it got to the Senate, it was derailed during a hearing before the Senate Commerce and Technology Committee. Based on fear that the information would not be secure or de-identified, the committee amended it to be only a summer study committee issue. Fortunately, the original content was restored by Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek), the bill’s sponsor, on the Senate floor. The Chamber has supported HB 1470 to maximize its utility as a consistent data source and analytical tool for a variety of public issues with multiple stakeholders.

Fortunately, the budget bill, HB 1001, authored by Rep. Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville) ended up providing good resources to the MPH –$9 million per year for the next two years. This allows MPH the ability to continue to develop to provide timely and accurate information that can help track vital information for the state’s economy, education and a host of other matters where better data can help inform better decisions.

Municipalities Work to Hinder Small Cell Legislation, But It Passes
A bill to more easily move Indiana’s mobile broadband connectivity to the next generation of technology passed the Indiana General Assembly. Senate Bill 213, Wireless Support Structures, authored by Sen. Hershman, focused on streamlining permitting, fees and co-location to increase coverage by current cell towers and facilitate more rapid installation of small cell technology in Indiana communities.

Specifically, an objective was to eliminate excess fees and permitting by local units of government that would hinder installation of small cell antennas. A lot of misinformation was communicated by detractors to say many of the antennas were the size of a refrigerator or Volkswagen, when, in fact, they are much smaller. It is in the providers’ economic interest to co-locate small cell antennas on current towers, light poles or other structures.

This legislation also highlighted an interesting dynamic: Many municipalities who want better broadband in their communities as an economic development tool also want a “say” in the small cell tower locations and to be able to collect fees and issue permits. And those desires are quite strong.

Case in point: There is a provision in the bill that allows Indiana communities to designate local ordinances (and possibly resolutions) to direct where and how those small cell devices can be put in their community by making them an underground or buried utility area. The deadline for seeking this additional protection was May 1. Realizing this, Accelerate Indiana Municipalities (AIM) sent information to its members around the state to quickly pass an ordinance or resolution by that date. Almost 100 locales were considering doing so. But that move may backfire on these same communities whose citizens want
better broadband. What’s more, whether those new ordinances are legal remains to be seen.

The Chamber supports more and better broadband for Indiana and strongly advocated for SB 213 during the process. We appreciate the hard work of Sen. Hershman and Rep. Ober in getting this legislation over the finish line.

Major Tech, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Progress
Several tech innovation issues ended up advancing in the state biennial budget, HB 1001, authored by Rep. Tim Brown.

A Chamber priority was to increase early stage capital in promising Indiana companies. While making the Venture Capital Investment (VCI) Tax Credit transferrable (to attract out-of-state investment to Indiana) didn’t happen, it arguably worked out even better with the creation of the $250 million Next Level Trust Fund. This allows for up to half of the $500 million corpus from the Major Moves highway infrastructure program to be used for investments outside of conservative fixed income investments. It creates a Next Level Indiana Fund investment board with fiduciary responsibility to direct investments in equities or “funds of funds” which could be directed toward promising Indiana businesses.

In addition to the Next Level Trust Fund, legislators adopted options for Indiana public employees and teachers with defined contribution plans to invest up to 20% of their contributions in an Indiana-focused fund.

This summer, the Legislative Services Agency is conducting a deep study of the impact of the VCI. That report is due in October 2017 and based on information that comes from that report, we hope to better advocate for the enhancement of the tax credit during the 2018 session, if warranted. In SB 507, authored by Sen. Randy Head (R-Logansport), the expiration date of the VCI tax credit of 2020 was eliminated so the tax credit now has more certainty for the future.

House Bill 1001 also funded $30 million for the 21st Century Research and Technology Fund. Additionally, $15 million for each of the next two years was allocated for the Business Promotion and Innovation Fund, which combined several requests. It gives authority to the Governor and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) to incentivize direct flights from international and regional airports in Indiana, encourage regional development activities (aka Regional Cities), advance innovation and entrepreneurship education programs through strategic partnerships and support international trade.

The Indiana Biosciences Research Institute was funded for $20 million for year two of the budget. This should pay dividends down the road to further grow Indiana life sciences opportunities.

Better Performance Metrics to Recertify Technology Parks
Certified technology parks (CTPs) around the state will benefit from House Bill 1601, authored by Rep. Todd Huston (R-Fishers). The bill requires IEDC to develop new metrics for performance of CTPs as they are up for recertification.

The IEDC will work with local units of government to develop the metrics. They will include the criteria used to evaluate each category of information by a CTP and a minimum threshold requirement to be recertified in each category.

This is good for both state and local governments to ensure the CTPs are truly being an effective driver of economic activity for that community and region. The bill did not receive any no votes during the legislative process and was supported in a bipartisan fashion. The Chamber backed the bill and appreciates the good work that Rep. Huston and Sen. Hershman, the Senate sponsor, did to ensure its passage.

Early Learning Coalitions Summit Set for June 5

The second annual Indiana Summit for Economic Development via Early Learning Coalitions will take place on June 5 at the Monroe County Convention Center in Bloomington. The Indiana Summit will explore the business case for investing in early childhood and learn how to develop, grow and sustain early learning coalitions in communities across the state of Indiana.

Keynote and featured speakers include:

  • Dr. Tim Bartik, economist at W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, who will share the important link between a strong and skilled workforce and investing in early childhood.
  • Hoosier native Erin Ramsey, senior director of Mind in the Making at the Bezos Foundation. She will talk about the brain development that occurs in the early years and its connection to shaping the future workforce.
  • Jeffrey Connor-Naylor, senior associate at Ready Nation, will share highlights from its latest research brief “Social-Emotional Skills in Early Childhood Support Workforce Success.”

Afternoon workshops will focus on helping local communities build strong coalitions with a focus on early childhood. There will also be ample time for networking and connecting with community leaders across the state.

Business, community and education leaders are coming together for the event. Registration is required. The daylong program is just $25.

After Session: A Look at What Passed and What Didn’t

Now that the legislative session has concluded, learn the final status of key bills monitored and advocated for/opposed by the Indiana Chamber in 2017 (links are PDFs):

2017 passed bills

2017 defeated bills

Utah Tops List of Where Growth is Happening

Utah’s population topped three million people in 2016, with the state being the fastest growing in the 12-month period starting July 1, 2015. The western flavor continued with others at the top of the list including Nevada, Idaho, Florida and Washington.

Now, approximately 38% of the population lives in what the Census Bureau identifies as the South, with 24% in the West.

Kiplinger goes a step further, with cities where it expects job creation to thrive going forward. At the top of that list (with a reason or two cited) are:

  • St, George, Utah: magnet for tourists visiting Zion National Park and retirees seeking pleasant weather
  • Bend and Redmond, Oregon: also strong in tourism and drawing retirees
  • Cleveland, Tennessee: home to a wide range of manufacturing operations
  • Prescott, Arizona: cooler climate makes it an attractive alternative to Phoenix
  • Savannah, Georgia: home of the fourth-busiest ocean port, which will grow once its harbor is deepened to handle larger vessels