Just hours before government funding was set to expire, President Trump on March 23 signed the bipartisan Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, averting a government shutdown. The $1.3 trillion fiscal year 2018 omnibus spending package, which provides funding for the government and federal agencies through September 30, contains several tax provisions and increased IRS funding.
The House approved the spending bill by a 256-to-167 vote on March 22. The Senate cleared the measure by a 65-to-32 vote.
The so-called “grain glitch” addressed within the omnibus package aims to fix an unintended consequence in the “pass-through” income deduction. The deduction is provided in new Code Sec. 199A, which was enacted last December as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) ( P.L. 115-97).
Before the fix, grain and other agricultural products sold to cooperatives received a tax advantage because those sales were deductible from a farmer’s gross sales. Sales to companies other than cooperatives were deductible only from net business income. The inadvertent advantage had been given to cooperatives as part of a drafting error, according to several Republican lawmakers.
The appropriations bill repeals the provision in Code Sec. 199A that allowed farmers to deduct 20 percent of their gross sales to cooperatives. As modified, the deduction is now limited to 20 percent of farmers’ net income, excluding capital gains. “This legislation restores the competitive balance in the agricultural marketplace by leveling the tax burden on independent and cooperative farming businesses,” Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said in a March 22 statement. The bill also modifies the deduction that is allowed to agricultural or horticultural cooperatives.
Low-Income Housing Tax Credit
Although Democrats have previously expressed an unwillingness to help Republicans correct issues within the new tax law, the parties agreed to the grain glitch fix in exchange for an expansion of the low-income house tax credit. The expansion is also included in the spending bill.
“This is the first increase in over a decade,” Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wa., said on March 22. “Nearly $3 billion is a good start towards tackling the housing crisis in our cities and rural communities,” she added. Cantwell spearheaded the efforts among Democrats for the credit’s expansion.
Numerous other technical corrections to previous tax bills spanning from 2004-2016 were included in the spending bill, none of which specifically address the TCJA. Included among the fixes are technical corrections to the partnership audit rules.
The legislation provides the IRS with $11.43 billion in funding, close to $196 million more than currently enacted levels. $320 million is allocated specifically for implementation of the TCJA. The Trump administration had requested $397 million for implementation of the new tax law. According to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the increased resources would provide an update to antiquated telephone systems and technology.
President Trump rattled Capitol Hill on March 23 when he announced just hours before government funding was set to expire that he may not sign the government spending bill. Although Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said on March 22 that the President would sign the omnibus package, President Trump took to Twitter on March 23 to suggest otherwise. “I am considering a veto of the omnibus spending bill…,” Trump said in a tweet.
While Trump did, in fact, wind up signing the spending bill, which tops 2,200 pages, he told reporters at the White House that he was “unhappy” to do so. Trump criticized the $1.3 trillion omnibus package for being the second largest in history. “I say to Congress, I will never sign another bill like this again. I’m not going to do it again. Nobody read it. It’s only hours old,” Trump said.