Casten, Underwood Cheer as House Panel Moves to Repeal SALT Cap

December 13, 2019
In The News

With a big push from two suburban Democrats, the House Ways & Means Committee late Wednesday voted to dump the tax clause that many Illinoisans have come to detest: the $10,000 a year cap on deducting state and local taxes on your federal income tax return.

But it’s far from certain that the measure will get by either the GOP-dominated U.S. Senate. The bill is temporary. And it's not certain it will be called for a vote before year's end even in the Democrat-dominated House—meaning that the bill could be a nicely wrapped Christmas package with nothing inside.

Under legislation sponsored by Reps. Lauren Underwood of Naperville and Brad Schneider of Deerfield, among others, the full SALT deduction would be restored in stages.

The current law’s so-called marriage penalty, in which a married couple has the half the SALT deduction as two singles who live together, would be phased out immediately, for 2019. Married couples filing jointly would be able to take a $20,000 deduction.

Then, next year, the cap would be abolished for everyone. But that restoration would apply only in 2020 and 2021.   After that, key provisions of the Trump tax law are scheduled to reconsidered, including SALT.

The cap issue has become hyperpartisan, with Republicans insisting residents of low-tax states (most of them dominated by Republicans) should not have to subsidize residents of higher-cost states (most of which are run by Democrats), and Democrats arguing that the rules change pushed through Trump is designed to punish people based on the politics of their home state.

"Forcing Americans to pay federal tax on money they already paid to state and local governments is double taxation and it's wrong," Schneider said in a statement.

Added Underwood in a phone interview, "This is a bipartisan win and a compromise bill. Millions of middle-class Americans have been waiting for this relief."

Whatever you think of the SALT cap, it has had a huge impact on suburban, mostly upper middle-class districts like those represented by Underwood and Casten.

According to the Tax Policy Center, a Washington research group, just under half of federal filers in Casten’s 6th District, 48.7 percent, claimed the SALT deduction on their 2016 returns, with the average deduction $15,815. Underwood’s 14th District was just behind, at 18th in the nation with 47.3  percent of filers claiming an average deduction of $12,610.

Underwood noted that the bill cleared committee, with one New York Republican voting yes—but not downstate Illinois Rep. Darin LaHood, who voted no. Underwood said she believes Speaker Nancy Pelosi will clear the bill for a House floor vote next week.

The measure then would go to the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has given no indication he intends to call it, but in an election year in which some GOP senators are considered politically vulnerable, who knows?

The bill would be paid for by reinstating the top federal income tax rate of 39.6 percent and extending it to income in excess of $400,000. The top rate currently is 37 percent