In our first two newsletters, we offered thoughts and predictions on the Trump Legislative Agenda. Here are a few updates:
DOL Fiduciary Rule
Phase 1 of the so called Fiduciary Rule took effect on June 9 to much moaning in the industry. Phase 2 was to take effect on January 1, 2018. However, on August 9, in a lawsuit in the US District Court in Minnesota challenging the Fiduciary Rule ("Thrivent Financial for Lutherans v. R. Alexander Acosta," Civil Action No. 16-cv-03289-SRN-DTS), the Department of Labor filed a Notice of Administrative Action, notifying that the Department had submitted to OMB the following proposed Amendments:
Extension of Transition Period and Delay of Applicability Dates From
January 1, 2018, to July 1, 2019; Best Interest Contract Exemption (PTE
2016-01); Class Exemption for Principal Transactions in Certain Assets
Between Investment Advice Fiduciaries and Employee Benefit Plans and
IRAs (PTE 2016-02); Prohibited Transaction Exemption 84-24 for Certain
Transactions Involving Insurance Agents and Brokers, Pension Consultants,
Insurance Companies, and Investment Company Principal Underwriters
In English, the Department is proposing to delay Phase 2 until January 1, 2019. What does this mean? Who knows. It’s been greeted with a shoulder shrug, a “let’s wait and see” from much of the industry. Massively unhelpful for clarity to the industry but a gratifying delay for those opposed to the Rule.
The Trump Agenda includes Infrastructure Growth. That plan undoubtedly stalled because of the kerfuffle on the ACA. The needs, remain, however, though WaPo predictably criticized the idea in the abstract (Five Myths About Infrastructure, Washington Post, August 4, 2017). The Administration has not been specific about how or what projects are priorities
On August 15, however, in the midst of a media shouting match, President Trump announced that he had signed an Executive Order entitled “Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects.”
The Executive Order is nearly all process; it’s the blocking and tackling all were expecting. It streamlines future infrastructure projects without identifying them specifically or allocating funding. It relies on OMB and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to effect the plan.
One concept – “One Federal Decision” - is as it sounds – one lead federal agency for navigating some projects. It sounds promising, especially for those who have been bounced around myriad federal agencies on large projects. While internal process timelines are established, the Executive Order itself sets no deadlines or schedules or implementation.
Corporate tax reform
Corporate tax reform was another high priority item for the Administration. Some have argued with the clarity of hindsight that tax reform should have preceded a challenge to the ACA – easier to effect change when it’s money versus lives, or so the argument goes. No doubt corporate tax reform is behind but remains a priority for the President and the Senate. Watch for parliamentary maneuvering in the Senate soon as part of the budget reconciliation process. The President’s 15% desired tax rate may look more like National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn’s proposed 23% proposal.
Individual tax reform
In April, the President released a one-page memo for individual tax reform:
2017 Tax Reform for Economic Growth and American Jobs
The Biggest Individual and Business Tax Cut in American History
Goals for Tax Reform
- Grow the economy and create millions of jobs
- Simplify our burdensome tax code
- Provide tax relief to American families—especially middle-income families
- Lower the business tax rate from one of the highest in the world to one of the lowest
- Tax relief for American families, especially middle-income families:
- Reducing the 7 tax brackets to 3 tax brackets for 10%, 25% and 35%
- Doubling the standard deduction
- Providing tax relief for families with child and dependent care expenses
- Eliminate targeted tax breaks that mainly benefit the wealthiest taxpayers.
- Protect the home ownership and charitable gift tax deductions.
- Repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax.
- Repeal the death tax.
- Repeal the 3.8% Obamacare tax that hits small businesses and investment income.
Will individual tax reform be coupled with a corporate tax package? Seems sensible but separation may be more strategic. All of this should be clearer or not when Congress returns from the August recess.