“They hear Tax Day is moved to May 17, so a lot of people will go to their preparer on April 30,” Mr. Stewart said. “Unfortunately, the first-quarter estimated payment is late.”
The conference and other groups representing tax professionals had urged the government to postpone the estimated tax deadline as well. In congressional committee testimony in March, the I.R.S. commissioner, Charles P. Rettig, said the estimated tax deadline hadn’t been changed because it would, in effect, be giving “a break” on interest and penalties to wealthy people, who would invest the money instead of paying the government.
But people who file estimated taxes also include sole proprietors and workers in the gig economy with modest incomes, accountants say. Many people who lost jobs in the pandemic switched to work delivering meals and groceries ordered by mobile apps, said Melanie Lauridsen, senior manager for tax policy and advocacy at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
“That’s where the need is,” Ms. Lauridsen said.
The disconnect between the filing and estimated tax deadlines means tax preparers are pushed to get returns done by the traditional deadline anyway. “It’s putting a tremendous amount of stress on tax preparers,” said Rhonda Collins, director of tax content and government relations with the National Association of Tax Professionals.
In general, filers must estimate what they owe and round up to reduce the risk of underpaying. “It feels like it’s very much a guesstimate,” Ms. Collins said.
Should you incur a penalty when you file your tax return next year, you can request an abatement. Often, the I.R.S. is lenient with first-time errors, she said, especially when there are extenuating circumstances.
It’s also important to keep track of your income in 2021, tax professionals say. Many people had lower incomes than usual during 2020 because of the pandemic, and could see them rise in 2021 if the pandemic wanes as expected and the economy expands. If your income is turning out to be higher than expected, you may need to increase the amounts of your estimated payments later in the year.
The main cause of the radical decline in tax rates for very wealthy Americans over the past 75 years isn’t the one that many people would guess. It’s not about lower income taxes (though they certainly play a role), and it’s not about lower estate taxes (though they matter too).
The biggest tax boon for the wealthy has been the sharp fall in the corporate tax rate.
In the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, many corporations paid about half of their profits to the federal government. The money helped pay for the U.S. military and for investments in roads, bridges, schools, scientific research and more. “A dirty little secret,” Richard Clarida, an economist who’s now the vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, once said, “is that the corporate income tax used to raise a fair amount of revenue.”
paid zero federal income taxes last year, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Among them: Archer-Daniels-Midland, Booz Allen Hamilton, FedEx, HP, Interpublic, Nike and Xcel Energy.
Alan Rappeport and Jim Tankersley of The Times write.
The justification for the tax cuts has often been that the economy as a whole will benefit — that lower corporate taxes would lead to company expansions, more jobs and higher incomes. But it hasn’t worked out that way. Instead, economic growth has been mediocre since the 1970s. And incomes have grown even more slowly than the economy for every group except the wealthy.
Gabriel Zucman, an economist and tax specialist at the University of California, Berkeley, told me. “The main reason why the U.S. tax system was so progressive before the 1980s is because of heavy taxes on corporate profits.”
President Biden is now trying to reverse some (but by no means all) of the decline in corporate taxes. His plan would raise the corporate tax rate, punish companies that move profits overseas and introduce a rule meant to prevent companies from paying zero taxes, among other things. The money would help pay for his infrastructure plan. “It’s honest, it’s fair, it’s fiscally responsible, and it pays for what we need,” Biden said at the White House yesterday.
Experts and critics are already raising legitimate questions about his plan, and there will clearly be a debate about it. Biden said he was open to compromises and other ideas.
But one part of the criticism is pretty clearly inconsistent with the facts: The long-term decline in corporate taxes doesn’t seem to have provided much of a benefit for most American families.
For more: If you haven’t yet listened to yesterday’s episode of “The Daily” — in which Jesse Drucker explains how Bristol Myers Squibb has avoided taxes — I recommend it.
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Make friends with fungi, both the kind you plant and those that seem to pop up on their own.
What to Read
“First Person Singular,” Haruki Murakami’s new story collection, allows the author’s “own voice — or what sounds like his own voice, wonderfully translated by Philip Gabriel — to enter the narratives,” David Means writes in a review.
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WASHINGTON — Large companies like Apple and Bristol Myers Squibb have long employed complicated maneuvers to reduce or eliminate their tax bills by shifting income on paper between countries. The strategy has enriched accountants and shareholders, while driving down corporate tax receipts for the federal government.
President Biden sees ending that practice as central to his $2 trillion infrastructure package, pushing changes to the tax code that his administration says will ensure American companies are contributing tax dollars to help invest in the country’s roads, bridges, water pipes and other parts of his economic agenda.
On Wednesday, the Treasury Department released the details of Mr. Biden’s tax plan, which aims to raise as much as $2.5 trillion over 15 years to help finance the infrastructure proposal. That includes bumping the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent, imposing a strict new minimum tax on global profits and levying harsh penalties on companies that try to move profits offshore.
The plan also aims to stop big companies that are profitable but have no federal income tax liability from paying no taxes to the Treasury Department by imposing a 15 percent tax on the profits they report to investors. Such a change would affect about 45 corporations, according to the Biden administration’s estimates, because it would be limited to companies earning $2 billion or more per year.
President Donald J. Trump’s 2017 tax cuts. Biden administration officials say that law increased the incentives for companies to shift profits to lower-tax countries, while reducing corporate tax receipts in the United States to match their lowest levels as a share of the economy since World War II.
Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, in rolling out the plan, said it would end a global “race to the bottom” of corporate taxation that has been destructive for the American economy and its workers.
“Our tax revenues are already at their lowest level in generations,” Ms. Yellen said. “If they continue to drop lower, we will have less money to invest in roads, bridges, broadband and R&D.”
The plan, while ambitious, will not be easy to enact.
Some of the proposals, like certain changes to how a global minimum tax is applied to corporate income, could possibly be put in place by the Treasury Department via regulation. But most will need the approval of Congress, including increasing the corporate tax rate. Given Democrats’ narrow majority in both the Senate and the House, that proposed rate could drop. Already, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a crucial swing vote, has said he would prefer a 25 percent corporate rate.
search of the lowest possible tax bill.
Companies also shift jobs and investments between countries, but often for different reasons. In many cases, they are following lower labor costs or seeking customers in new markets to expand their businesses. The Biden plan would create new tax incentives for companies to invest in production and research in the United States.
weakened by subsequent regulations issued by Mr. Trump’s Treasury Department.
Conservative tax experts, including several involved in writing the 2017 law, say they have seen no evidence of the law enticing companies to move jobs overseas. Mr. Biden has assembled a team of tax officials who contend the provisions have given companies new incentives to move investment and profits offshore.
Mr. Biden’s plan would raise the rate of Mr. Trump’s minimum tax and apply it more broadly to income that American companies earn overseas. Those efforts would try to make it less appealing for companies to book profits in lower-tax companies.
The S.H.I.E.L.D. proposal is an attempt to discourage American companies from moving their headquarters abroad for tax purposes, particularly through the practice known as “inversions,” where companies from different countries merge, creating a new foreign-located firm.
Under current law, companies with headquarters in Ireland can “strip” some of their profits earned by subsidiaries in the United States and send them back to the Ireland company as payments for things like the use of intellectual property, then deduct those payments from their American income taxes. The S.H.I.E.L.D. plan would disallow those deductions for companies based in low-tax countries.
Tax professionals say Mr. Biden’s proposed changes to that law could be difficult to administer. Business groups say they could hamper American companies as they compete on a global scale.
Republicans denounced the plan as bad for the United States economy, with lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Committee saying that “their massive tax hikes will be shouldered by American workers and small businesses.”
coupled with an effort through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to broker a global agreement on minimum corporate taxation, will start a worldwide revolution in how and where companies are taxed. That is in part because the Biden plans include measures meant to force other countries to go along with a new global minimum tax that Ms. Yellen announced support for on Monday.
Treasury Department officials estimate in their report that the proposed changes to the minimum tax, and the implementation of the S.H.I.E.L.D. plan, would raise an estimated $700 billion over 10 years on their own.
Business groups warn the administration’s efforts will hamstring American companies, and they have urged Mr. Biden to wait for the international negotiations to play out before following through with any changes.
Members of the Business Roundtable, which represents corporate chief executives in Washington, said this week that Mr. Biden’s minimum tax “threatens to subject the U.S. to a major competitive disadvantage.” They urged the administration to first secure a global agreement, adding that “any U.S. minimum tax should be aligned with that agreed upon global level.”
However, some companies expressed an openness on Wednesday to some of the changes.
John Zimmer, the president and a founder of Lyft, told CNN that he supported Mr. Biden’s proposed 28 percent corporate tax rate.
“I think it’s important to make investments again in the country and the economy,” Mr. Zimmer said. “And as the economy grows, so too does jobs and so too does people’s needs to get around.”
Just as the Biden administration is pushing to raise taxes on corporations, a new study finds that at least 55 of America’s largest paid no taxes last year on billions of dollars in profits.
The sweeping tax bill passed in 2017 by a Republican Congress and signed into law by President Donald J. Trump reduced the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent. But dozens of Fortune 500 companies were able to further shrink their tax bill — sometimes to zero — thanks to a range of legal deductions and exemptions that have become staples of the tax code, according to the analysis.
Salesforce, Archer-Daniels-Midland and Consolidated Edison were among those named in the report, which was done by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a left-leaning research group in Washington.
financial reports that include federal income tax expense. The institute used that data along with other information supplied by each company on its pretax income.
Catherine Butler, a spokeswoman for Duke Energy, responded in an email that the company “fully complies with federal and state tax laws as part of our efforts to make investments that will benefit our customers and communities.”
She pointed out that the bonus depreciation, intended to encourage investment in areas like renewable energy, “caused Duke’s cash tax obligations to be deferred to future periods, but it did not eliminate them.” According to a filing at the end of 2020, Duke has a deferred federal tax balance of $9 billion that will be paid in the future.
DTE Energy, a Detroit-based utility that was also found to have paid no federal taxes for three years, said major investments in modernizing aging infrastructure and new solar and wind technologies were the primary reasons last year. “For utilities, the benefit of these federal tax savings are passed on to utility customers in the form of lower utility bills,” it said in a statement.
Democratic candidates citing it to argue the tax code was deeply flawed.
Tax avoidance strategies include a mix of old standards and new innovations. Companies, for example, saved billions by allowing top executives to buy discounted stock options in the future and then deducting their value as a loss.
The Biden administration announced this week that it planned to increase the corporate tax rate to 28 percent, and establish a kind of minimum tax that would limit the number of zero-payers. The White House estimated that the revisions would raise $2 trillion over 15 years, which will be used to fund the president’s ambitious infrastructure plan.
Supporters say that in addition to yielding revenue, the rewrite would help make the tax code more equitable, requiring individuals and companies at the top of the income ladder to pay more. But Republicans have signaled that the tax increases in the Biden proposal — which Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, called “massive” — will preclude bipartisan support.
Referring to the proposed revisions, Matt Gardner, a senior fellow at the taxation institute, said, “If I were going to make a list of the things I would want the corporate tax reform to do, this outline tackles all these issues.”
Deductions and exemptions wouldn’t disappear, but other changes like the minimum tax would reduce their value, he said.
Almost nine years ago, Bristol Myers Squibb filed paperwork in Ireland to create a new offshore subsidiary. By moving Bristol Myers’s profits through the subsidiary, the American drugmaker could substantially reduce its U.S. tax bill.
Years later, the Internal Revenue Service got wind of the arrangement, which it condemned as an “abusive” tax shelter. The move by Bristol Myers, the I.R.S. concluded, would cheat the United States out of about $1.4 billion in taxes.
That is a lot of money, even for a large company like Bristol Myers. But the dispute remained secret. The company, which denies wrongdoing, didn’t tell its investors that the U.S. government was claiming more than $1 billion in unpaid taxes. The I.R.S. didn’t make any public filings about it.
And then, ever so briefly last spring, the disputebecame public. It was an accident, and almost no one noticed. The episode provided a fleeting glimpse into something that is common but rarely seen up close: how multinational companies, with the help of elite law and accounting firms and with only belated scrutiny from the I.R.S., dodge billions of dollars in taxes.
infrastructure plan that the White House unveiled on Wednesday proposed increasing the minimum overseas tax on multinational corporations, which would reduce the appeal of such arrangements.)
For the three years leading up to 2012, Bristol Myers’s tax rate was about 24 percent. The U.S. corporate income tax rate at the time was 35 percent. (It is now 21 percent.)
The company wanted to pay even less.
In 2012, it turned to PwC, the accounting, consulting and advisory firm, and a major law firm, White & Case, for help getting an elaborate tax-avoidance strategy off the ground. PwC had previously been Bristol Myers’s auditor, but it was dismissed in 2006 after an accounting scandal forced Bristol Myers to pay $150 million to the U.S. government. Now PwC, with a long history of setting up Irish tax shelters for multinational companies, returned to Bristol Myers’s good graces.
sided with the agency after it challenged a similar maneuver by General Electric using an offshore subsidiary called Castle Harbour. The I.R.S. also contested comparable setups by Merck and Dow Chemical.
The Bristol Myers arrangement “appears to be essentially a copycat shelter,” said Karen Burke, a tax law professor at the University of Florida. Since the I.R.S. was already fighting similar high-profile transactions, she said, “Bristol Myers’s behavior seems particularly aggressive and risky.”
The next January, the company announced its 2012 results. Its tax rate had plunged from nearly 25 percent in 2011 to negative 7 percent.
On a call with investors, executives fielded repeated questions about the drop in its tax rate. “Presumably, all drug companies try to optimize their legal entities to take their tax rate as low as they can, yet your rate is markedly lower than any of the other companies,” said Tim Anderson, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Company. “So I’m wondering why your tax rate might be unique in that regard?”
Charlie Bancroft, the company’s chief financial officer, wouldn’t say.
The more than $1 billion in tax savings came at an opportune moment: Bristol Myers was in the midst of repurchasing $6 billion worth of its own shares, an effort to lift its stock price. By January 2013, it had spent $4.2 billion. The cash freed up by the tax maneuver was enough to cover most of the remainder.
Tax Notes, a widely read trade publication, had also posted the document. When the I.R.S. provided a clean version, Tax Notes took down the original.
An I.R.S. spokesman declined to comment.
Cara Griffith, the chief executive of Tax Analysts, the publisher of Tax Notes, said the publication erred “on the side of not publishing confidential taxpayer information that was accidentally released through an error in redaction, unless it reaches a very high threshold of newsworthiness.”
David Weisbach, a former Treasury Department official who helped write the regulations governing the tax-code provision that Bristol Myers is accused of violating, agreed. PwC and White & Case “are giving you 138 pages of legalese that doesn’t address the core issue in the transaction,” he said. “But you can show the I.R.S. you got this big fat opinion letter, so it must be fancy and good.”
The current status of the tax dispute is not clear. Similar disputes have spent years winding through the I.R.S.’s appeals process before leading to settlements. Companies often agree to pay a small fraction of what the I.R.S. claims was owed.
“There is a real chance that a matter like this could be settled for as little as 30 percent” of the amount in dispute, said Bryan Skarlatos, a tax lawyer at Kostelanetz & Fink.
In that case, the allegedly abusive tax shelter would have saved Bristol Myers nearly $1 billion.
President Biden’s ambitious plan to increase corporate taxes does more than just reverse much of the overhaul pushed through by his predecessor. It also offers a profoundly different vision of how to make the United States more competitive and how to foot the bill.
When President Donald J. Trump and a Republican Congress rewrote the tax code in 2017, most of the benefits went to the wealthiest Americans, with lower rates on businesses and on profits from investments. The guiding principle, proponents argued, was that cutting taxes on corporations and investors would encourage businesses to expand, creating more jobs and generating more wealth for everyone.
By contrast, the animating idea behind the tax plan put forward by the Biden administration on Wednesday is that the best way to increase America’s competitiveness and foster economic growth is to raise corporate taxes to finance huge investments in transportation, broadband, utilities and more.
The Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers all welcomed the idea of pumping money into repairing and building the nation’s infrastructure, but recoiled at raising corporate taxes to do so.
said in a statement.
The biggest and most eye-catching proposal is to trim the sizable reduction in the corporate tax rate enacted under Mr. Trump. In 2017, Republicans shrank the rate to 21 percent from 35 percent. Mr. Biden wants to nudge the rate part of the way back — to 28 percent.
The increase will “ensure that corporations pay their fair share of taxes,” and fund critical investments “to maintain the competitiveness of the United States and grow the economy,” the White House stated in outlining the plan.
The other provisions are primarily intended to ensure that multinational corporations cannot avoid taxes on profits generated overseas. The hope is that this will reduce the temptation to set up operations or offices in foreign tax havens.
Wall Street has been wary of possible tax increases since the presidential election and has hoped that gridlock in Washington would moderate Mr. Biden’s agenda. On Wednesday, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase said the bank’s chief executive, Jamie Dimon, believed that “the corporate tax rate for companies in the U.S. has to be competitive globally, which it is now.”
Supporters countered that the changes would do much more to promote growth and go a long way in curbing excesses of the 2017 tax legislation. Democrats have argued that the low-tax approach has failed to deliver broad economic gains, with only those at the very top benefiting. Targeted government spending on workers, students and infrastructure, they argue, would offer much more bang for the buck. What’s more, businesses base their decisions on a range of factors besides tax rates.
Even economists favoring low rates on business acknowledge that the 2017 tax cuts did not produce much of an increase in investment. Gross domestic product grew at a rate of 2.4 percent in the two years leading up to the law and 2.4 percent in the two years after it passed.
“There’s essentially no evidence that the tax change boosted investment,” said William Gale, co-director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. He argued that investment went up in 2018 only because oil prices rose. And while the tax law favored investments in equipment and structures, it turned out that the biggest investments were not in those areas but in intellectual capital.
11.3 percent on their 2018 income.
pass through income to their owners or shareholders. (They pay taxes at the ordinary rate on their individual returns.)
The Biden administration has indicated that tax increases for the wealthy will help fund the second phase of the infrastructure plan, which is expected to be announced next month and will focus on priorities like education, health care and paid leave.
Gillian Friedman and Lauren Hirsch contributed reporting.
Many liberal economists say there are good reasons to raise taxes, starting with using those funds to invest in workers and help build economic opportunity. Spending on physical infrastructure, like roads and water pipes, or on programs like education and child care that are meant to help people earn more money could help curb persistent inequalities in income and wealth. The economists also say that tax increases that are properly set up would provide incentives for multinational companies to keep jobs in the United States and not shift profits to lower-tax foreign countries.
“The purpose of the tax system is to both raise enough revenue for what the government wants to do, and to make sure that as we’re doing that we are encouraging activities that are in the national interest and discouraging ones that are not,” said Heather Boushey, a member of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers.
Key Democrats are trying to bring the party to consensus. The top tax writer in the Senate, Ron Wyden of Oregon, is drafting a series of bills to raise taxes, many of them overlapping with Mr. Biden’s campaign proposals.
“I’ll be ready to raise what the Democratic caucus decides is required to move forward,” Mr. Wyden, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in an interview.
Mr. Wyden’s plans include big changes to the portions of Mr. Trump’s tax cuts that overhauled how the United States taxes multinational companies, including the creation of a minimum tax of sorts on income earned abroad. Mr. Wyden and many Democratic economists, including some inside the Biden administration, say that the tax was devised in a way that it ultimately incentivized companies to continue moving profits and activities offshore to avoid American taxes. Republican economists and some tax experts disagree and say the law has allowed U.S. companies to better compete globally.
A report from the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation this month showed that multinational companies paid an average U.S. tax rate of less than 8 percent on their income in 2018, down from 16 percent in 2017. The report also found that those companies did not slow their practice of booking profits in low-tax havens like Bermuda.
Mr. Biden, Mr. Wyden and Mr. Sanders have all drafted plans to raise revenues by amending the 2017 law to force multinational companies to pay more to the United States. One of the most lucrative ways to do that, according to tax scorekeepers, would be to increase the rate of the global minimum tax, forcing those companies to pay higher U.S. tax rates no matter where they locate jobs or profits.
Bruin is investing in TGI Sport, an ad tech company that’s currently owned by the Australian firm Quadrant Private Equity. (A person briefed on the matter said that Bruin was investing about $100 million.) Currently a part of QMS Media, which provides outdoor advertising like digital billboards, TGI focuses on sports advertising — with a twist. Its “parallel ads” technology allows teams to display different ads on and around the field of play for audiences in different geographies. It has been used by Major League Soccer, New Zealand Rugby and others.
TGI’s technology is based on special physical panels and does not rely on green-screen special effects, meaning that it doesn’t require special cameras for broadcasters and isn’t affected by slow-motion, said Barclay Nettlefold, QMS’s chief, who will become TGI’s global C.E.O.
“Why should a fan in New York look at Boston advertising?” asked George Pyne, the founder and C.E.O. of Bruin. As broadcast audiences are getting smaller and more fragmented, sports franchises want to build more of a direct relationship with viewers, and then persuade advertisers to pay to reach those fans.
“The broadcaster hasn’t done anything to foster the relationship between the club and the consumer,” said Jonathon Pearce, Quadrant’s managing partner. Or, as Mr. Pyne put it, using his favorite soccer club as an example: “The audience is coming to watch Liverpool because it’s Liverpool. It’s all about the brand, and if McDonald’s or someone wants that audience, they need to engage that brand.”
“This is for people who are looking to take some risks because a lot of this stuff will absolutely go to zero.”
— Mike Winkelmann, the artist known as Beeple, speaking on the “Sway” podcast about the frenzy for digital art via nonfungible tokens, or NFTs. He auctioned an NFT-linked image this month that sold for $69 million.
‘Who owns SoFi?’
The Chinese social media company Renren went public in the U.S. in 2011 with great fanfare, fizzled, and soon spun off its investment platform. The spinoff included shares in the SoftBank-backed fintech company Social Finance, or SoFi, in a deal criticized by some Renren shareholders. They sued Renren, its executives and others in New York State Court for $500 million in 2018, in a case that last week survived attempts at dismissal just as they were filing an amended complaint detailing allegations against additional defendants, SoFi and SoftBank.
The plaintiffs accuse insiders of stripping Renren of its value, their lead attorney, Bill Reid, told DealBook. Executives took the company’s billion-dollar investment portfolio in a complex arrangement that “split up the spoils,” he argued. He alleged that SoFi and SoftBank helped unfairly get the best of Renren.
“In short, this is a dispute between SoFi’s shareholders over who owns SoFi,” Mr. Reid said. The long version of the story runs for more than 150 pages in a complaint that involves recitation of 19th-century Cayman Islands law.
SoFi is going public via a SPAC, in a deal that values it at more than $8.5 billion. Renren’s founder and a defendant in the case, Joe Chen, is on the board of SoFi, which is in the process of merging with Social Capital Hedosophia, a blank-check firm run by Chamath Palihapitiya. In a statement to DealBook, SoFi’s general counsel, Rob Lavet, said, “While as a matter of policy we do not comment on ongoing litigation, we do believe the charges against us are meritless and we look forward to vigorously defending ourselves in court.”
SoftBank and Social Capital did not respond to requests for comment.
WASHINGTON — President Biden’s economic advisers are preparing to recommend spending as much as $3 trillion on a sweeping set of efforts aimed at boosting the economy, reducing carbon emissions and narrowing economic inequality, beginning with a giant infrastructure plan that may be financed in part through tax increases on corporations and the rich.
After months of internal debate, Mr. Biden’s advisers are expected to present a proposal to the president this week that recommends carving his economic agenda into separate legislative pieces, rather than trying to push a mammoth package through Congress, according to people familiar with the plans and documents obtained by The New York Times.
The total new spending in the plans would likely be $3 trillion, a person familiar with them said. That figure does not include the cost of extending new temporary tax cuts meant to fight poverty, which could reach hundreds of billions of dollars, according to estimates prepared by administration officials. Officials have not yet determined the exact breakdown in cost between the two packages.
Mr. Biden supports all of the individual spending and tax cut proposals under consideration, but it is unclear whether he will back splitting his agenda into pieces, or what legislative strategy he and Democratic leaders will pursue to maximize the chances of pushing the new programs through Congress given their narrow majorities in both chambers.
high-technology industries in an escalating battle with China and other foreign competitors.
While the $1.9 trillion economic aid package that Mr. Biden signed into law earlier this month includes money to help vulnerable people and businesses survive until the pandemic ends, it does little to advance the longer-term economic agenda that Mr. Biden campaigned on.
The package under consideration would begin that effort in earnest. The first legislative piece under discussion, which some Biden officials consider more appealing to Republicans, business leaders and many moderate Senate Democrats, would combine investments in manufacturing and advanced industries with what would be the most aggressive spending yet by the United States to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change.
It would spend heavily on infrastructure improvements, clean energy deployment and the development of other “high-growth industries of the future” like 5G telecommunications. It includes money for rural broadband, advanced training for millions of workers and 1 million affordable and energy-efficient housing units. Documents suggest it will include nearly $1 trillion in spending alone on the construction of roads, bridges, rail lines, ports, electric vehicle charging stations and improvements to the electric grid and other parts of the power sector.
Whether it can muster Republican support will depend in large part on how the bill is paid for.
Officials have discussed offsetting some or all of the infrastructure spending by raising taxes on corporations, including increasing the corporate income tax rate above the current 21 percent rate and a variety of measures to force multinational corporations to pay more tax in the United States on income they earn abroad. That strategy is unlikely to garner Republican votes.
told reporters last week. He predicted the administration’s infrastructure plan would be a “Trojan horse” for tax increases.
Mr. Biden’s team has debated the merits of aggressively pursuing compromise with Republicans and business leaders on an infrastructure package, which would most likely require dropping or scaling back plans to raise taxes on corporations, or preparing to move another sweeping bill through a special parliamentary process that would require only Democratic votes. Mr. Biden’s advisers plan to present the proposal to congressional leaders this week.
“President Biden and his team are considering a range of potential options for how to invest in working families and reform our tax code so it rewards work, not wealth,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said. “Those conversations are ongoing, so any speculation about future economic proposals is premature and not a reflection of the White House’s thinking.”
Mr. Biden said in January that his relief bill would be followed by a “Build Back Better Recovery Plan,” echoing the language of his campaign agenda. He said that plan would “make historic investments in infrastructure and manufacturing, innovation, research and development, and clean energy. Investments in the caregiving economy and in skills and training needed by our workers to compete and win the global economy of the future.”
The timing of that proposal — which Mr. Biden initially had said would come in February — slipped as administration officials focused on completing the relief package. In the interim, administration officials have concluded their best chance to advance Mr. Biden’s larger agenda in Congress will be to split “Build Back Better” into component proposals.
The first plan, centered on infrastructure, includes large portions of the plan Mr. Biden offered in the 2020 election. His campaign predicted that Mr. Biden’s investments would create 5 million new jobs in manufacturing and advanced industries, on top of restoring all the jobs lost last year in the Covid-19 crisis.
aimed at cutting poverty, particularly for children.
Officials have weighed financing that plan through initiatives that would reduce federal spending by as much as $700 billion over a decade, like allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug costs with pharmaceutical companies. The officials have discussed further offsetting the spending increases by raising taxes on high-earning individuals and households, like raising the top marginal income tax rate to 39.6 percent from 37 percent.
Administration officials were still debating details of the tax increases late last week. One question is how, exactly, to apply Mr. Biden’s campaign promise that no one earning less than $400,000 a year would pay more in federal taxes under his plan. Currently, the top marginal income tax rate starts at just above $500,000 for individuals and above $600,000 for couples. Mr. Biden proposed raising that rate in the campaign.
Officials say they are committed to not raising the tax bills of any individual earning less than $400,000. But they have debated whether to lower the income threshold for the top marginal rate, to tax all individual income above $400,000 at 39.6 percent, in order to raise more revenue for his spending plans.
Mr. Biden’s broader economic agenda will face a more difficult road in Congress than his relief bill, which was financed entirely by federal borrowing and passed using a special parliamentary tactic with only Democratic votes. Mr. Biden could again attempt to use that same budget reconciliation process to pass a bill on party lines. But moderate Democrats in the Senate have insisted that the president engage Republicans on the next wave of economic legislation, and that the new spending be offset by tax increases.
Large business groups and some congressional Republicans have expressed support for some of Mr. Biden’s broad goals, most notably efforts to rebuild roads, bridges, water and sewer systems and other infrastructure across the country. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers have both spoken favorably of spending up to $2 trillion on infrastructure this year.
But Republicans are united in opposition to most of the tax increases Mr. Biden has proposed. Business groups have warned that corporate tax increases would scuttle their support for an infrastructure plan. “That’s the kind of thing that can just wreck the competitiveness in a country,” Aric Newhouse, senior vice president of policy and government relations at the National Association of Manufacturers, said last month.
Administration officials are considering offering to extend some 2017 tax breaks that are set to expire, like the ability to immediately deduct new investments, as part of their plans in order to win over business support.
Top business groups have also expressed an openness to Mr. Biden breaking up his “Build Back Better” agenda in order to pass smaller pieces with bipartisan support.
“If you try to solve every major issue in one bill, I don’t know that’s a recipe for success,” Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in an interview last month. “These don’t have to be done in one package.”
Good morning and happy spring. Here’s hoping you can enjoy another Sunday spent ignoring your tax returns (or, if you’ve already done them, feeling smug about it). But first, here’s what you need to know in business and tech news for the week ahead. — Charlotte Cowles
What’s Up? (March 14 to 20)
More Time for Taxes
Good news for procrastinators like me, or anyone whose taxes were complicated by the pandemic: The Internal Revenue Service has extended the deadline to file taxes by one month, to May 17. The extra time will help people navigate new tax rules that took effect with the passage of the American Rescue Plan. The law made the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits tax-free for people who earned less than $150,000 last year, a significant benefit for many people whose jobs were disrupted. But if you’ve already filed, don’t worry — the I.R.S. said it would automatically send those refunds to people who qualify.
Well, That Was Awkward
Relations between China and the Biden administration got off to a rocky start last week at the first face-to-face meeting between diplomats. The United States set a confrontational tone on the eve of the talks by imposing sanctions on 24 Chinese officials for undermining democracy in Hong Kong. In turn, China’s top diplomat accused his American counterparts of being “condescending,” among other claims. The purpose of the three-day meeting, according to President Biden’s team, was to find common ground on climate change and on controlling the pandemic, and to address U.S. concerns about Chinese trade and military encroachments. The tension does not bode well for making headway in future negotiations.
suing the Walt Disney Company for what they call “rampant gender pay discrimination” have added another accusation to their list: that Disney “maintains a strict policy of pay secrecy.” A new section of the lawsuit refers to an episode in which one female Disney employee was “disciplined for disclosing her pay to co-workers.” Pay transparency is considered an important part of closing racial and gender wage gaps, and retaliation for discussing your own salary violates California law as well as the National Labor Relations Act. Disney has denied the claims and vowed to defend itself.
What’s Next? (March 21 to 27)
Coming to a Walmart Near You
Walmart is jumping on the vaccine passport bandwagon, saying it will provide standardized digital vaccination credentials to anyone who gets vaccinated at one of its stores or at Sam’s Club. The retailer will develop a health passport app that people can use to verify their status at airports, schools, sports arenas and other potentially crowded places. Walmart joins an existing push by major health centers and tech companies, including Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce and the Mayo Clinic, as well as a proposal from the European Union, which would require vaccine verification for travel in certain areas.
How Has the Pandemic Changed Your Taxes?
Nope. The so-called economic impact payments are not treated as income. In fact, they’re technically an advance on a tax credit, known as the Recovery Rebate Credit. The payments could indirectly affect what you pay in state income taxes in a handful of states, where federal tax is deductible against state taxable income, as our colleague Ann Carrns wrote. Read more.
Mostly. Unemployment insurance is generally subject to federal as well as state income tax, though there are exceptions (Nine states don’t impose their own income taxes, and another six exempt unemployment payments from taxation, according to the Tax Foundation). But you won’t owe so-called payroll taxes, which pay for Social Security and Medicare. The new relief bill will make the first $10,200 of benefits tax-free if your income is less than $150,000. This applies to 2020 only. (If you’ve already filed your taxes, watch for I.R.S. guidance.) Unlike paychecks from an employer, taxes for unemployment aren’t automatically withheld. Recipients must opt in — and even when they do, federal taxes are withheld only at a flat rate of 10 percent of benefits. While the new tax break will provide a cushion, some people could still owe the I.R.S. or certain states money. Read more.
Probably not, unless you’re self-employed, an independent contractor or a gig worker. The tax law overhaul of late 2019 eliminated the home office deduction for employees from 2018 through 2025. “Employees who receive a paycheck or a W-2 exclusively from an employer are not eligible for the deduction, even if they are currently working from home,” the I.R.S. said. Read more.
Self-employed people can take paid caregiving leave if their child’s school is closed or their usual child care provider is unavailable because of the outbreak. This works similarly to the smaller sick leave credit — 67 percent of average daily earnings (for either 2020 or 2019), up to $200 a day. But the caregiving leave can be taken for 50 days. Read more.
Yes. This year, you can deduct up to $300 for charitable contributions, even if you use the standard deduction. Previously, only people who itemized could claim these deductions. Donations must be made in cash (for these purposes, this includes check, credit card or debit card), and can’t include securities, household items or other property. For 2021, the deduction limit will double to $600 for joint filers. Rules for itemizers became more generous as well. The limit on charitable donations has been suspended, so individuals can contribute up to 100 percent of their adjusted gross income, up from 60 percent. But these donations must be made to public charities in cash; the old rules apply to contributions made to donor-advised funds, for example. Both provisions are available through 2021. Read more.
Back in the Hot Seat
Chief executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter will be grilled in Congress this Thursday, this time over their failure to crack down on the spread of misinformation. Tech executives were last summoned by lawmakers in November 2020, when Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter faced a firestorm of questioning about content moderation, mostly regarding their attempts to prevent a wave of falsehoods about the presidential election. This time, they will be asked about coronavirus vaccine misinformation and about the election fraud conspiracy theories that continue to spread on their platforms.
Elsewhere in Washington
The two biggest names in economic policy — the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome Powell, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen — will make their first joint appearance this week when they testify before the House Financial Services Committee on the progress of pandemic relief efforts. The hearing comes one week after the Fed revised its economic outlook to project stronger growth and offered more reassurances that it would keep interest rates near zero for the coming years.
jettisoned a Trump-era policy that limited debt relief for students who were defrauded by for-profit educational institutions. The newly hired Teen Vogue editor, Alexi McCammond, resigned over racist and homophobic tweets that she posted a decade ago. And retail sales dropped 3 percent in February as consumers grappled with declining stimulus effects and devastating winter storms.