Senate tax reform bill contains more changes

By Alistair M. Nevius, J.D.
November 17, 2017

December 2, 2017
Senate passes tax reform bill

November 16, 2017
House passes tax reform bill

November 15, 2017
Senate Finance Committee modifies tax reform proposal

IRS Practice & Procedure
Tax Reform
The Senate Finance Committee on Thursday evening approved its version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, sending the bill to the full Senate for debate and a vote. The committee had spent the week amending the bill, and the final version includes some changes beyond those included in the chairman’s mark released on Tuesday. (For prior coverage, see “Senate Finance Committee Modifies Tax Reform Proposal.”)

The Senate is expected to take up the bill after it returns from its Thanksgiving recess.

Here are notable changes in the final version approved by the Senate Finance Committee.

Free File program: The Senate bill would codify and make permanent the IRS’s Free File program.

Whistleblower awards: The Senate bill would provide an above-the-line deduction for attorneys’ fees and court costs paid in connection with any action involving claims under a state false claims act, the SEC whistleblower program, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission whistleblower program.

The bill would also modify Sec. 7623 to expand the definition of collected proceeds eligible for whistleblower awards.

Carried interests: The Senate bill would impose a three-year holding period requirement before certain partnership interests transferred in connection with the performance of services would qualify for long-term capital gain treatment.

Excessive compensation: Sec. 162(m) limits the deductibility of compensation paid to certain covered employees of publicly traded corporations. Current law defines a covered employee as the chief executive officer and the four most highly compensated officers (other than the CEO). The Senate bill would revise the definition of a covered employee under Sec. 162(m) to include both the principal executive officer and the principal financial officer and would reduce the number of other officers included to the three most highly compensated officers for the tax year. The bill would also require that if an individual is a covered employee for any tax year (after 2016), that individual will remain a covered employee for all future years. The bill would also remove current exceptions for commissions and performance-based compensation.

The bill includes a transition rule, so that the proposed changes would not apply to any remuneration under a written binding contract that was in effect on Nov. 2, 2017, and that was not later modified in any material respect.

Dividends paid: Under the Senate bill, corporations that pay dividends would be required to report the total amount of dividends paid during the tax year and the first 2½ months of the succeeding year, effective for tax years beginning after 2018. Corporations would not be allowed to deduct dividends paid when computing taxable income.

Dividends received: The Senate bill would also reduce the current 70% dividends-received deduction to 50% and the 80% dividends-received deduction to 65%.

Net operating losses: The Senate bill would limit the net operating loss deduction to 80% of taxable income (as determined without regard to the deduction). Net operating losses would be allowed to be carried forward indefinitely, but not carried back (except for certain farming losses). This change would apply to tax years beginning after 2022.

Orphan drug credit: The Senate bill would reduce the current Sec. 45C 50% orphan drug credit to 27.5% and would institute reporting requirements similar to the required for the Sec. 48C qualifying advanced energy project credit and the Sec. 48D qualifying therapeutic discovery project credit.

Employer-provided meals: The Senate bill would disallow an employer’s deduction for expenses associated with meals provided for the convenience of the employer on the employer’s business premises, or provided on or near the employer’s business premises through an employer-operated facility that meets certain requirements. However, the final version of the bill delays this change until tax years starting after 2025.

Amortization of research and experimental expenditures: The Senate bill would require specified research or experimental expenditures to be capitalized and amortized over a five-year period, effective for amounts paid or incurred in tax years beginning after 2025. Specified research and experimental expenditures attributable to research conducted outside the United States would be amortized over a 15-year period. The bill would also institute a new reporting requirement, for tax years beginning after 2024.

Exempt organizations
Excise tax on private college investments: Under current law, private colleges and universities are generally treated as public charities rather than private foundations, and thus they are not subject to the Sec. 4940 private foundation excise tax on net investment income. However, the Senate bill would impose a 1.4% excise tax on net investment income of private colleges and universities that have at least 500 students and aggregate assets of at least $250,000 per student. The assets-per-student threshold will be determined by including amounts held by related organizations, but only to assets held by the related organization for the education institution and to investment income that relates to assets held for the institution.

—Alistair M. Nevius ( is The Tax Adviser’s editor-in-chief.