The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, January 12, 2018

Contractors also get some gifts from tax cut

By The Building Tradesman

Construction contractors generally like what they see in the new Tax Cut and Jobs Act package that was signed into law Dec. 22 by President Trump.

"Today, Congress passed comprehensive tax reform legislation that will lower rates, spur economic growth and impact construction businesses for years to come," said Associated General Contractors CEO Stephen Sandherr. "However, this process did not start as well as it ended for the construction industry."

Added the Engineering News Record: "Contractors are generally pleased with the final, business-friendly version of the tax bill signed by the president. Among the key measures are a deduction on the reportable income for pass-through entities and repeal of the alternative minimum tax, which had set a floor under the tax obligation of businesses, trusts and other entities that use numerous deductions."

The contractors' perspective on the tax package, of course, looks much more closely at how it affects their  business environment, than how it affects worker incomes. For example: the impact on the bond market, how their companies are organized to take advantage of tax breaks, and which building sectors are winners and losers in terms of getting tax advantages. Early versions of the law provided little help for the construction industry in some of those areas, but effective lobbying turned things around for builders, the AGC said.

Lobbying included emphasis on getting favorable language inserted in the law that only an accountant could love, including lowering pass-through rates, doubling the estate and gift tax exclusion, ensuring the tax-exempt status of private activity bonds, and preventing the full repeal of the historic tax credit.

The National Law Review said municipal bond markets, which often fund infrastructure work, were "breathing easier" after Congress halted earlier efforts to introduce an unfavorable tax that would have eliminated about 25 percent of the tax-exempt bond market. "In so doing, Congressional Republicans avoided crippling President Donald Trump's infrastructure initiative before it begins by retaining tax provisions that help public and private entities foster economic growth." the Review said Dec. 21.

Offering a perspective on the new law to member-contractors,  National Electrical Contractors Association CEO John Grau wrote on Jan. 2: After many years of discussion, education, and activism by NECA, Congress at long last passed a comprehensive tax reform bill that we believe will help reduce your tax burden and help grow the electrical construction industry for the foreseeable future. When Congress began to pull together its first take on reform many months ago, it quickly became unclear whether this was going to be truly beneficial for our industry."

Grau cited a number of the above-mentioned factors that were turned around to help contractors. However, he pointed out that the so-called Cadillac Tax was not eliminated in this legislation: it adds a 40 percent levy on high-cost employer benefit plans like those covering building trades unions, beginning in 2020.

"While we did not get every single item we desired, NECA worked tirelessly to advocate for a substantially better final bill than originally presented," Grau said. "Our multifaceted advocacy efforts included classic boots on the ground lobbying, extensive coordination with our coalition partners, engagement with our chapters, receipt of feedback from our members on how the varying proposals would affect their bottom line, and the hundreds of letters sent by all of you to Capitol Hill through our Legislative Action Center.

"Thanks to all these efforts, we cultivated multiple champions in Congress who helped secure NECA contractors several major wins."