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Talk of Tax

December 8th, 2017 by Chris Orange

Here on the LobbyBlog we’ve been keeping a firm eye on the implications on-going tax-code negotiations have been having across the lobbying community, last week discussing its impact on the renewable energy sector, but a report from Public Citizen last week has shorn light on the scale of importance it has had on the lobbying industry in recent months. Lisa Gilbert, vice President of legislative affairs at the group, described that ‘the mind-boggling number of lobbyists corporate America has hired to reshape the tax code is of almost biblical proportions and undoubtedly cost a fortune’. The report named ‘Swamped’, perhaps seeks to draw attention to the fact that despite Trump’s election pledge to drain the swamp, his promise of a historic tax overhaul has in fact seen the Capitol swamped with interest groups vying for a piece of the action.

The key findings of the report show that in all, 6,243 lobbyists have been listed on lobbying disclosure forms as working on issues involving the word ‘tax’ through the first three quarters of 2017, this equates to a massive 57% of the 11,000 people who have reported engaging in any domestic lobbying activities at all in 2017. Equating to more than 11 lobbyists for every member of congress, the scale of operations becomes apparent. It is worth noting that not all tax issues reported in the lobbying disclosures have related specifically to Congress’s tax overhaul debate, but nevertheless of the 20 organizations who hired the most lobbyists on tax issues, all 20 reported lobbying specifically on ‘tax reform’.

The report has drawn attention to the diverseness of industry piling into the debate, twenty-six industries have hired at least 150 lobbyists each to work on tax issues in the first three quarters of 2017. The pharmaceutical industry alone deployed 653 lobbyists to work on tax within this period, and the Chambers of Commerce was the most active organization, with over 100 lobbyists working on tax issues. Across industry, corporate tax rates, repatriation of corporate profits, intra-organizational transfers of assets, depreciation rules and deductibility of interest were among the core focuses of activity.

Jeff Birnbaum, who covered the 1986 tax overhaul for the Wall Street Journal, noted that the current lobbying deluge is reminiscent, however in 1986 conferees spent a month hashing out differences between the House and Senate bills, now they have just a couple of weeks. The final-sprint has seen the lobbying community presented with two main options; influence senators and representatives who will make up the conference committee charged with finding a compromise, or work to persuade Republican members of Congress whose constituents may see their taxes go up if changes are failed to be made. Builders and real estate will continue the fight to save the mortgage interest deduction, and across wider business, a push to strip-out the preservation of the corporate alternative minimum tax will go into overdrive.

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