A tax and retirement package released by House Republicans earlier this week would cost the federal government $55 billion over the next 10 years, according to a report released Wednesday by the Congressional Budget Office.
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, earlier this week unveiled legislation to fix several drafting errors in the GOP tax law, bolster retirement savings among Americans, and extend about 30 tax breaks that are set to expire. The package includes a bipartisan overhaul of the Internal Revenue Service and would also provide tax relief for victims of the California wildfires, among other natural disasters.
The plan has faced opposition from Senate Democrats, and the price tag calculated by the CBO may further diminish its chances of passage. Brady told reporters Tuesday that he was optimistic the bill could pass in the lame-duck session of Congress, but it needs support from Senate Democrats to be signed into law.
“To have a very lengthy, last-minute tax bill that increases the deficit is not what America needs at this moment,” said Michael Peterson, chief executive of the Peterson Foundation, which advocates lower federal deficits. "We need to actually improve our fiscal outlook.”
The IRS reforms in Brady’s package would decrease federal revenues by about $415 million over a 10-year period, the CBO found. The CBO did not specify the individual cost of the other parts of the bill, but the 30 or so extensions to existing tax breaks are probably responsible for the bulk of its cost, said Nicole Kaeding, director of federal projects at the Tax Foundation, a think tank. Among the tax breaks that would be extended under Brady’s bill are those for alternative fuels, racehorse expenses, the deduction for private mortgage insurance and NASCAR expensing.
The CBO finds Brady’s bill would cost the federal government $23 billion in its first year, as the legislation would extend many of these tax breaks for only one year. If those tax policies continue to be extended over the next decade, the 10-year price tag would probably rise dramatically, Peterson said.
The technical corrections to the 2017 GOP tax law do not contribute to the Brady bill’s $55 billion cost, Kaeding said. Brady has characterized the effort as including bipartisan proposals, such as reforms to the IRS that unanimously passed the House this year. The tax-relief proposals for victims of California wildfires are also likely to earn Democratic support.
“We’re working to have a very simple, direct technical correction,” Brady told reporters. “I don’t expect this to necessarily be bipartisan at every step of the way, but I think we can find common ground and get this to the president’s desk.”
But House Democrats have been critical of the effort. “I don’t think it’s a serious offer,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.). “You don’t release something that’s hundreds of pages of complex tax policy five minutes before we leave.”
The Republican tax law passed in 2017 will cost the government about $1.3 trillion from 2018 to 2028, not factoring in interest payments, the CBO previously reported. A second round of tax cuts passed by Republicans this September, but dead on arrival in the Senate, would add an additional $3.2 trillion to the federal deficit over a decade, a centrist think tank found.