Representative Sean Casten

Representing the 6th District of Illinois

House Votes to Repeal SALT Cap—But GOP-led Senate Looms

December 20, 2019
In The News

(Bloomberg)—Democrats from high-tax states scored a symbolic victory Thursday as the House voted to repeal a politically fraught portion of President Donald Trump’s tax law: the cap on state and local tax, or SALT, deductions.

The legislation would repeal the $10,000 cap in 2020 and 2021, and raises it to $20,000 for married couples for 2019. The measure is offset by raising the top individual tax rate to 39.6 percent from 37 percent.

Republicans, with Democratic support, amended the legislation at the last minute to prohibit those earning $100 million or more a year from deducting their entire state and local tax bill, a move that would prevent extremely wealthy taxpayers from benefiting from the more generous SALT allowance. The change also allows first responders and teachers to write off $1,000 for work-related expenses.

"Raising this unfair, punishing cap is a top priority for the constituents I represent," Rep. Brad Schneider of Deerfield said today on the House floor.

Rep. Sean Casten of Illinois' Sixth Congressional district, who flipped former Rep. Peter Roskam's seat in 2018, said in a statement: "I came to congress to address the discriminatory SALT cap implemented last Congress, and I am proud to close out my first year as a Representative with a vote in support of tax relief to the residents of IL-06 and those across the country."

Rep. Lauren Underwood of Illinois' 14th Congressional district noted that before the 2017 tax law took effect, "taxpayers in our community were able to deduct all of their state and local taxes before calculating their federal tax bill—the average amount is over $14,000 and well over $20,000 for some."

SENATE LONG SHOT

But taxpayers shouldn't call their accountants yet. Senate leaders have already said they won't bring up the bill and the White House has threatened a veto.

The 2017 tax law capped the SALT deduction at $10,000 as a way to pay for some of the levy reductions in the law. The write-off was previously unlimited, though some higher-income people weren't eligible to claim it. Still, the change sparked ire from lawmakers from high-tax states saying Republicans targeted mostly Democratic states to pay for their tax law.

Since the overhaul, lawmakers from the high tax states most affected—including Illinois, New York, New Jersey and California—have vowed to repeal the $10,000 cap. They argue that higher incomes and home values in those areas mean some middle class taxpayers are unable to deduct large portions of their SALT liabilities. The House passed the legislation 218-206, mostly on party lines.

"Republicans passed an irresponsible millionaires’ tax cut that my constituents in New Jersey paid for," Democratic Representative Bill Pascrell, said in reference to the 2017 tax law. "We have promised to undo the destruction on the middle class rendered by the Republican tax scam law."

Thursday's vote faces a backlash from Republicans and some Democrats who say the change would benefit high-earners at the expense of the middle class. About 52 percent of the benefit from repealing the cap flows to households earning at least $1 million a year, the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation found.

"Millionaires and billionaires will be glued to their screens to see how big their big tax break will be," Representative Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee said Monday. "This is overwhelmingly a tax cut for the wealthy and zero for the middle class."

Business groups have already begun mobilizing to oppose the SALT changes, saying the higher top tax rate will harm more taxpayers than the larger SALT deductions help. In particular, some pass-through businesses, companies where the owners pay the business taxes on their personal tax returns, say the legislation could harm them.

The expanded tax breaks, netted with the revenue from the higher income tax rate, would raise about $2.4 billion over a decade, according to a congressional Joint Committee on Taxation report on the original bill.

"Some people have raised questions about the distributional effects and paying for it with an increase in the top marginal rate is an elegant way to address that," Representative Ron Kind, a Wisconsin Democrats, said. "The Republicans have decided to weaponize the tax code to go after these blue districts through double taxation.