Tax proposals have some good news for the payments industry: former U.S. Rep. Lazio

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We’ve asked for it for more than three decades, and now it appears we’re finally going to get a tax reform bill.

Everywhere you look a member of Congress or an administration official is espousing the virtues of a simplified tax code and reducing taxes, and I could not agree more. The U.S. Tax Code is more than 70,000 pages long, wildly complicated and full of potential pitfalls for businesses and citizens alike. And as a former congressman, I sympathize both with my colleagues on the Hill and the people all across the country that strive to make heads-or-tails out of the tax code.

Here’s my insight on the discussions I’ve heard about the proposed tax plan coming out of the House and its counterpart over in the Senate. Overall, business taxes are primed to come down. By exactly how much and the exact timing of certain provisions is yet to be settled, but the general thrust looks promising.
Perhaps the initial point of interest to the retail payments sector is the fact that the industry looks largely unscathed. I see very little that would give businesses in the payments processor world cause for concern. And that’s “good news.” Some industries, like homebuilders and wind energy producers, are not so lucky.

And there are promising changes that could impact the industry. One item of great interest to many business owners, the top “pass-through" rate, would drop down. The House bill sets the new pass-through rate for certain owners at 25% while the Senate plan would provide a 17.4% deduction for income derived from pass-through companies. In addition, the House and Senate plans would eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). These two provisions add up to a serious win for many business owners, and that’s not all. Expensing is another area that provides some good news. Both the House and Senate plans provide the option for an immediate write down of fixed investments of non-real-estate items, at least for the next five years.

Some proposed changes impact the investors to the payments industry. Among issues that are potentially of concern to venture capital and private equity are the changes planned to the carried interest rule. Initial fears of a total elimination proved unfounded. Of late it looks like opposing forces have compromised on a three-year rule. The compromise treats income on carried interest as capital gains after the investment is maintained for at least three years. That may give a few investors another factor to consider, but the proposal honors the spirit of the president’s vow to eliminate the “abuse” of the carried interest rule.

Another provision scarcely mentioned during these tax plan debates, but critical to growth, is the R&D Tax Credit. It provides a wide range of businesses from numerous industries with the option to look at tax credits in recognition of myriad research and development activities. In addition, legislation that was passed at the end of 2015 still allows for young businesses (less than five years old and never having more than $5 million in gross receipts in a given year) to apply for a credit against their payroll tax. So even companies not yet generating profits have opportunities to take a credit. These two key incentives for innovators were retained.

All in all, I see some very positive developments in the plan coming out of Washington. If I were starting a new business right now in the retail payments sector, or similar high-tech space, I would feel comfortable in saying, “At the end of the day the tax plan is tax reduction, and that’s good news to me.”

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