It’s no surprise that the House Republicans’ tax bill includes the eventual repeal of the estate tax, a long-held GOP goal. But The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler highlights an unexpectedly generous aspect of the current bill: It “allows the beneficiaries of estates to not pay capital gains taxes on the increase in value of assets held by the estates. That has not been a feature of most previous estate-tax bills.”
Currently, estates face a federal tax if they’re valued at more than $5.49 million for individuals or almost $11 million for couples. But, for tax purposes, the value of assets passed on to heirs gets “stepped-up” or reset to their value at the time of death. Kessler’s example: “Imagine a home that had been purchased for $250,000 but was now worth $1 million. The ‘stepped-up basis’ would be $1 million. If the heirs sold the house for $1.1 million, they would only owe capital-gains tax on the $100,000 difference, not the $850,000 difference from the original purchase price.”
The GOP bill repeals the estate tax, but also keeps the stepped-up basis — a seemingly small detail that creates a huge tax shelter. It means that heirs of large estates would save tens of billions of dollars a year when they sell assets that have appreciated in value over time — or, as Kessler puts it, that the bill will allow “tens of billions of untapped capital gains to remain beyond the reach of the U.S. government.”
The U.S. is officially running short on 202 drugs, including some medical staples like epinephrine, morphine and saline solution. “The medications most vulnerable to running short have a few things in common: They are generic, high-volume, and low-margin for their makers—not the cutting-edge specialty drugs that pad pharmaceutical companies’ bottom lines,” Fortune’s Erika Fry reports. “Companies have little incentive to make the workhorse drugs we use most.” And much of the problem — “The situation is an emergency waiting to be a disaster,” one pharmacist says — can be tied to one company: Pfizer. Read the full story here.
More Americans say they are living comfortably or at least “doing okay” financially, according to the Federal Reserve’s Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2017. At the same time, four in 10 adults say that, if faced with an unexpected expense of $400, they would not be able to cover it or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money. That represents an improvement from 2013, when half of all adults said they would have trouble handling such an expense, but suggests that many Americans are still close to the edge when it comes to their personal finances.
The Tax Policy Center’s Daily Deduction reports that Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday introduced The Jobs and Opportunity with Benefits and Services (JOBS) for Success Act (H.R. 5861). “The bill would rename the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and target benefits to the lowest-income households. Although the House GOP leadership promised to include an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit as part of an upcoming welfare reform bill, this measure does not appear to include any EITC provisions.” The committee will mark up the bill on Wednesday.
The GOP tax cuts expanded an exemption for the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and changed tax breaks that often triggered the tax. As a result, The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Saunders reports, “This year’s AMT is a shadow of its former self. It is expected to raise about $5 billion for 2018, down from an estimated $39 billion under prior law, according to the Tax Policy Center.” The AMT will likely hit some 200,000 tax filers for 2018, down from roughly 5 million who would have had to pay if the tax cuts hadn’t been passed. And the number of people making $500,000 or less who owe the AMT will fall to about 120,000 this year from 4 million last year, a Tax Policy Center economist tells the Journal.