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    Carried Interest Is Back in the Headlines. Why It’s Not Going Away.

    Changes demanded by Senator Kyrsten Sinema will preserve a tax loophole that Democrats have complained about for years.For years, Democrats and even some Republicans such as former President Donald J. Trump have called for closing the so-called carried interest loophole that allows wealthy hedge fund managers and private equity executives to pay lower tax rates than entry-level employees.Those efforts have always failed to make a big dent in the loophole — and the latest proposal to do so also faltered this week. Senate leaders announced on Thursday that they had agreed to drop a modest change to the tax provision in order to secure the vote of Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, and ensure passage of their Inflation Reduction Act, a wide-ranging climate, health care and tax bill.An agreement reached last week between Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, and Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, would have taken a small step in the direction of narrowing carried interest tax treatment. However, it would not have eliminated the loophole entirely and could still have allowed rich business executives to have smaller tax bills than their secretaries, a criticism lobbed by the investor Warren E. Buffett, who has long argued against the preferential tax treatment.The fate of the provision was always in doubt given the Democrats’ slim control of the Senate. And Ms. Sinema had previously opposed a carried interest measure in a much larger bill called Build Back Better, which never secured the 50 Senate votes needed — Republicans have been unified in their opposition to any tax increases.Had the legislation passed in the form that Mr. Schumer and Mr. Manchin presented it last week, the shrinking of the carried interest exception would have brought Democrats a tiny bit closer to realizing their vision of making the tax code more progressive.What is carried interest?Carried interest is the percentage of an investment’s gains that a private equity partner or hedge fund manager takes as compensation. At most private equity firms and hedge funds, the share of profits paid to managers is about 20 percent.Under existing law, that money is taxed at a capital-gains rate of 20 percent for top earners. That’s about half the rate of the top individual income tax bracket, which is 37 percent.The 2017 tax law passed by Republicans largely left the treatment of carried interest intact, after an intense business lobbying campaign, but did narrow the exemption by requiring private equity officials to hold their investments for at least three years before reaping preferential tax treatment on their carried interest income.What would the Manchin-Schumer agreement have done?The agreement between Mr. Manchin and Mr. Schumer would have further narrowed the exemption, in several ways. It would have extended that holding period to five years from three, while changing the way the period is calculated in hopes of reducing taxpayers’ ability to game the system and pay the lower 20 percent tax rate.Senate Democrats say the changes would have raised an estimated $14 billion over a decade, by forcing more income to be taxed at higher individual income tax rates — and less at the preferential rate.The longer holding period would have applied only to those who made $400,000 per year or more, in keeping with President Biden’s pledge not to raise taxes on those earning less than that amount.The tax provision echoed a measure that was initially included in the climate and tax bill that House Democrats passed last year but that stalled in the Senate. The carried interest language was removed amid concern that Ms. Sinema, who opposed the measure, would block the overall legislation.Why hasn’t the loophole been closed by now?Many Democrats have tried for years to completely eliminate the tax benefits private equity partners enjoy. Democrats have sought to redefine the management fees they get from partnerships as “gross income,” just like any other kind of income, and to treat capital gains from partners’ investments as ordinary income.Such a move was included in legislation proposed by House Democrats in 2015. The legislation would also have increased the penalties on investors who did not properly apply the proposed changes to their own tax filings.The private equity industry has fought back hard, rejecting outright the basic concepts on which the proposed changes were based.“No such loophole exists,” Steven B. Klinsky, the founder and chief executive of the private equity firm New Mountain Capital, wrote in an opinion article published in The New York Times in 2016. Mr. Klinsky said that when other taxes, including those levied by New York City and the state government, were accounted for, his effective tax rate was between 40 and 50 percent.What would the change have meant for private equity?The private equity industry has defended the tax treatment of carried interest, arguing that it creates incentives for entrepreneurship, healthy risk-taking and investment.The American Investment Council, a lobbying group for the private equity industry, described the proposal as a blow to small business.“Over 74 percent of private equity investment went to small businesses last year,” said Drew Maloney, chief executive of the council. “As small-business owners face rising costs and our economy faces serious headwinds, Washington should not move forward with a new tax on the private capital that is helping local employers survive and grow.”The Managed Funds Association said the changes to the tax code would hurt those who invested on behalf of pension funds and university endowments.“Current law recognizes the importance of long-term investment, but this proposal would punish entrepreneurs in investment partnerships by not affording them the benefit of long-term capital gains treatment,” said Bryan Corbett, the chief executive of the association.“It is crucial Congress avoids proposals that harm the ability of pensions, foundations and endowments to benefit from high-value, long-term investments that create opportunity for millions of Americans.”Jim Tankersley More

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    House Democrats’ Plan to Tax the Rich Leaves Vast Fortunes Unscathed

    The House Ways and Means Committee’s proposal to pay for trillions in social spending leaves wealth gains and inheritances largely alone. It focuses instead on a more traditional target: income.WASHINGTON — House Democrats on Monday presented a plan to pay for their expansive social policy and climate change package by raising taxes by more than $2 trillion, largely on wealthy individuals and profitable corporations.But the proposal, while substantial in scope, stopped well short of changes needed to dent the vast fortunes of tycoons like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, or to thoroughly close the most egregious loopholes exploited by high-flying captains of finance. It aimed to go after the merely rich more than the fabulously rich.Facing the delicate politics of a narrowly divided Congress, senior House Democrats opted to be more mindful of moderate concerns in their party than of its progressive ambitions. They focused on traditional ways of raising revenue: by raising tax rates on income rather than targeting wealth itself.Representative Dan Kildee of Michigan, a Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, which crafted the plan, called it “the boldest common denominator.”“Being for something doesn’t make it law; 218 votes in the House, 50 votes in the Senate and the president’s signature make it law,” he said, adding, “What I don’t want is another noble defeat.”The proposal includes nearly $2.1 trillion in increased tax revenues, the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation estimated on Monday. Democrats say those increases will go a long way to funding President Biden’s ambitions to expand the federal government’s role in education, health care, climate change, paid leave and more.But the bill dispenses with measures floated by the White House and Senate Democrats to tax wealth or to close off avenues that the superrich have exploited to pass on a lifetime of gains to their heirs tax-free.“It would be a monumental mistake for Congress to pass a bill that really exempts billionaires,” said Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the Democratic chairman of the Finance Committee.Key Democrats cautioned on Monday that the House proposal was likely to change — perhaps considerably — as Mr. Biden’s economic agenda wends its way through the House and Senate, where Democrats hold slim majorities and must hold nearly every member of their ideologically diverse caucus together. But White House officials welcomed the Ways and Means plan and said it took important steps toward the president’s vision of a tax code that rewards ordinary workers at the expense of the very rich.The proposal includes substantial measures to raise taxes on the rich. Taxable income over $450,000 — or $400,000 for unmarried individuals — would be taxed at 39.6 percent, the top rate before President Donald J. Trump’s 2017 tax cut brought it to 37 percent. The top capital gains rate would rise to 25 percent from 20 percent, considerably less than a White House proposal that would have taxed investment gains as income for the richest, at 39.6 percent.Under the committee’s plan, a 3 percent surtax would be applied to incomes over $5 million.The proposal would also raise taxes in a variety of ways on businesses called pass-through entities — like many law firms and financial companies — that distribute profits to their owners, who then pay individual income taxes on them. Those changes, including the extension of an existing 3.8 percent surtax to include pass-through income, would raise taxes primarily on high earners, generating several hundred billion dollars in revenues, by Democratic estimates.The joint committee estimated on Monday that the changes would raise about $1 trillion from high-income individuals.Republicans balked at the proposal. Business lobbying groups rejected the package, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce slamming it as “an existential threat to America’s fragile economic recovery and future prosperity.”“President Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats are ramming through trillions of wasteful spending and crippling tax hikes that will drive prices up even higher, kill millions of American jobs and drive them overseas, and usher in a new era of government dependency with the greatest expansion of the welfare state in our lifetimes,” Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the committee’s ranking Republican, said of the plan.But what is not included is notable. The richest of the rich earn little from actual paychecks (Mr. Bezos’s salary as the founder of Amazon was $81,840 in 2020), so a surtax on income would have little impact. Their vast fortunes in stocks, bonds, real estate and other assets grow largely untaxed each year.“The proposal is extremely modest in the area of structural change,” said Eric Toder, a co-director of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in Washington. “Mostly, it is about raising rates on existing tax bases.”In the Senate, Democrats are taking aim directly at accumulated wealth. The Finance Committee has proposed a one-time surtax on billionaires’ fortunes, followed by annual levies on the gains in value of billionaires’ assets, similar to the way property taxes are adjusted each year to reflect gains in housing values.Mr. Biden’s expansive tax proposals, during his campaign and as president, did not include a wealth tax. But he and top senators had called for a variety of measures to more heavily tax inherited wealth and the investments of very high earners.Representative Bill Pascrell Jr. of New Jersey, a Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, conceded on Monday that large swaths of wealth in the country were tied up in assets, not large salaries. But he said many Democrats were leery of going too far.“I am very suspect of a wealth tax,” he said. “I think it’s perceived as ‘soak the rich.’ I don’t think it is, but that’s how it’s perceived.”Representative Bill Pascrell Jr. of New Jersey, a Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, acknowledged that large swaths of wealth were tied up in assets, not large salaries. But he said many Democrats were leery of going too far.T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York TimesThe committee did take aim at a loophole in retirement savings exploited by the billionaire Peter Thiel, who, according to a ProPublica investigation, was able to take a Roth individual retirement account worth less than $2,000 in 1999 and grow it to $5 billion, which could be completely shielded from taxation.To prevent such exploitation, the Ways and Means Committee would stop contributions to retirement accounts once they reach $10 million.In other areas, the committee appears to be making only glancing blows at the wealthiest Americans. Former President Barack Obama, Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden have all vowed to close the so-called carried interest loophole, in which private equity managers pay low capital gains taxes on the fees they charge clients, asserting that the money is not income because it is drawn from their clients’ investment gains.Senate Democrats have proposed closing the loophole completely, saving Treasury $63 billion over 10 years. The House proposal would merely limit the practice, forcing Wall Street financiers to hold their clients’ investment gains for five years before claiming them as capital gains and cashing out. It would save $14 billion, a fraction of the Senate proposal.Another item missing from the House plan: a measure to tax inheritances more aggressively. Mr. Biden and many other Democrats want assets such as stocks and real estate to be taxed when they are inherited by wealthy heirs, based on the gain in value from the time the original owner purchased them. Under current law, such assets face capital gains taxation only when they are sold, according to their worth when they were inherited, allowing all the gain in value over the lifetimes of the superwealthy to go untaxed as long as they are passed on to heirs.But the new proposal faced a fierce lobbying campaign, led by rural Democrats like former Senators Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Max Baucus of Montana. Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, the Democratic chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, left it out.To some liberals, Mr. Neal’s pragmatism felt more like surrender.“America’s billionaires are popping Champagne tonight as the House Ways and Means Committee — led by Chair Richie Neal — fails the president, fails the country and fails history,” said Erica Payne, the president of Patriotic Millionaires, a group of wealthy liberals that embraces much higher taxes on the rich.Some Democrats expressed surprise on Monday at Mr. Neal’s political calculations. “A wealth tax? I don’t know anyone who says that’s not working for them politically,” said Representative Donald S. Beyer Jr., Democrat of Virginia and a member of the committee.But with Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, suggesting that the final package might have to be half the size of the House plan, Mr. Beyer said he understood why Democratic leaders did not want to make vulnerable lawmakers embrace the most aggressive options.“People will be saying, ‘You raised our taxes by $2.9 trillion,’” Mr. Beyer said. “Pelosi and leadership do not want to put a lot of threatened members on anything that’s just going to die in the Senate.”White House officials on Monday welcomed the House plan, while acknowledging that it was far from a final product.“We see it as a first step,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, the deputy White House press secretary.Zolan Kanno-Youngs More

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    Democrats and Lobbyists to Battle Over Tax Increases for Biden’s Social Policy Bill

    Congressional committees this week begin drafting tax increases on the wealthy and corporations to pay for a $3.5 trillion social policy bill, but the targets are putting up a fight.WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats always knew their battle plan for raising taxes on corporations, large inheritances and the superwealthy would not survive initial contact with the enemy.They just didn’t realize that enemy would be North Dakota-nice Heidi Heitkamp.The Democratic former senator has emerged as the smiling face of a well-financed effort to defeat a proposed tax increase that is crucial to funding the $3.5 trillion social spending bill at the heart of President Biden’s agenda. Her effort is indicative of the difficult slog ahead as the business lobby mobilizes to chip away at Democrats’ tax-raising ambitions, which some lawmakers say will have to be scaled back to maintain party unity, an assessment the White House has disputed.On Thursday, the House Ways and Means Committee is set to begin formally drafting its voluminous piece of the 10-year measure to combat climate change and reweave the nation’s social safety net, with paid family and medical leave, expanded public education, new Medicare benefits and more. The committee’s purview includes much of that social policy, but also the tax increases needed to pay for it.Democrats had hoped that the tax side would be more than notations on an accounting ledger. They regard it as an opportunity to fundamentally change policies to address growing income inequality, reduce incentives for corporations to move jobs and profits overseas, and slow the amassing of huge fortunes that pass through generations untaxed.But corporate interests, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and Americans for Tax Reform, have mobilized a multifaceted lobbying and advertising blitz to stop the tax increases — or at least mitigate them.“They’re lobbying to try to escape their obligation to pay the taxes they owe, leaving working families to pay a larger share of the burden,” Mr. Biden said at the White House on Friday. “Somebody has got to pay.”The $3.5 trillion social spending bill would help fund expanded public education.Clara Mokri for The New York TimesMembers of the Senate Finance Committee will meet this week to go over more than two dozen tax proposals. Some of them are well on their way toward inclusion in the measure, which under a complex budget process known as reconciliation would be able to pass Congress without a single Republican vote.Lobbyists expect the top individual income tax rate to return to 39.6 percent from the 37 percent rate that President Donald J. Trump’s tax cuts created in 2017. The corporate income tax rate will also rise from the 21 percent in the Trump tax cuts, though not to the 35 percent rate of the Obama years. Lawmakers say a 25 percent rate is more likely.Many Democrats are determined to tax the wealth of America’s fabulously rich, much of which goes untaxed for decades before being passed along to heirs. Currently, for instance, when large estates are passed on at death, heirs are allowed to value the stocks, real estate and other assets at the price they would fetch at the time of the original owner’s death. They pay taxes only on the gain in value from that point once the assets are sold. If the assets are not sold, they are not taxed at all..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-1kpebx{margin:0 auto;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1kpebx{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1gtxqqv{margin-bottom:0;}.css-19zsuqr{display:block;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}Mr. Biden wants to have heirs to large fortunes pay taxes when the original owner dies. Those taxes would be levied on inherited assets based on the gain in value from when those assets were initially purchased.Ms. Heitkamp, who said she was recruited to the opposition campaign by the Democratic former senator-turned-superlobbyist John Breaux, is adamant that taxation upon death, regardless of wealth, is deadly politics. Ms. Heitkamp said she was finding a receptive audience among potential swing voters in rural areas, especially owners of family farms, even though Democrats say such voters would never be affected by the changes under consideration. Lobbyists already expect this piece of the estate tax changes to wash out in the lobbying deluge.“This is very consistent with my concern about revitalizing the Democratic Party in rural America,” Ms. Heitkamp said. “You may want to do this,” she said she had counseled her former colleagues, “but understand there will be risk, and risk is the entire agenda.”Even more significantly, the Finance Committee is looking at taxing the accumulated wealth of billionaires, regardless of whether it is sold. Extremely wealthy Americans like the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos would have a decade to pay a one-time tax on the value of assets like stocks that have been accruing value for years. They would then pay taxes each year on the annual gain in value of their stocks, bonds and other assets, much like many Americans pay property taxes on the annually assessed value of their homes.Another key component is the international tax code. The Biden administration has called for doubling the tax that companies pay on foreign earnings to 21 percent, so the United States complies with an international tax deal that the administration is brokering, which would usher in a global corporate minimum tax of at least 15 percent.The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development announced in July that more than 130 countries had agreed to the new framework, which aims to eliminate tax havens and end a race to the bottom on corporate tax rates. Officials have been rushing to confirm the details before the Group of 20 leaders meet in Rome in October.Extremely wealthy Americans like the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos would have a decade to pay a one-time tax on the value of assets such as stocks that have been accruing value for years.Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesBut countries such as France are concerned that the United States will not be able to live up to its end of the bargain if Congress cannot raise the minimum tax.The moment of truth is approaching. Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas, a senior Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, and 40 other members of his party on Tuesday backed the White House. Yet some Democratic lawmakers have expressed concern that U.S. companies would still be at a competitive disadvantage if other countries enacted minimum tax rates as low as 15 percent and the United States had a higher rate.Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen addressed those concerns in a Twitter post on Friday.“As Congress begins to finalize their legislation, I urge them to remember the historic opportunity that we have to end the race to the bottom and finally have a foreign policy and a tax code that works for the middle class,” she wrote.Republicans are already on the attack. After the disappointing monthly jobs report on Friday, Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the ranking Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, said the slowing economy would “only get worse if the Democrats’ trillions in tax hikes and welfare spending is rammed through Congress in September.”Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the chairman of the Finance Committee, said he understood that business groups and Republicans would howl that the tax increases would kill jobs, stifle the economy and hurt ordinary, struggling Americans.“The big lobbies are going to attack you under any circumstance,” he said, “and half the time they’re just making it up.”But he insisted that the politics had changed. Americans who struggled during the coronavirus pandemic can see how rich others have become. New revelations from a trove of tax records leaked to ProPublica showed that household names like Mr. Bezos and Elon Musk paid virtually no federal taxes.Other lawmakers are not so sure, especially in the House, where midterm campaigns loom and a razor-thin Democratic majority is clearly at risk. Among the most vulnerable members are those from conservative-leaning districts where tax increases are particularly unpopular.“No one wants to throw the House away,” said Representative Donald S. Beyer Jr., Democrat of Virginia, a member of the Ways and Means Committee. “We’re all mindful of our frontline candidates.”Estate and capital gains tax changes proposed by the president and embraced by Mr. Wyden are aimed at the superrich, but the campaign against them frames the issue around family farms and small businesses. Ms. Heitkamp rebuffed Mr. Wyden’s assurance that he could structure the changes to affect only the very wealthy and the gain in value of their assets without taxation.“People don’t believe that, because they believe that rich people always have the lane to get into Congress,” she said. “I get that you’re trying to deal with a huge disparity in wealth in this country, and I get that you are concerned about that for the future of America. I share the concern. Taxing unrealized capital gains is not the path forward.”Some lawmakers and tax lobbyists are already circulating a document handicapping which measures are likely to survive — and which are not. A corporate tax rate increase at home and abroad is likely to pass, though it may not be as high as some Democrats would like. So is a higher top income tax rate on individuals. Capital gains tax rates are expected to rise somewhat, though not to the ordinary income tax rate of 39.6 percent for the very rich, as Mr. Biden has proposed.A measure to increase tax law enforcement, which fell out of a separate bipartisan infrastructure bill, is likely to reappear in the reconciliation bill.But lobbyists expect the proposal to make heirs pay immediate taxes on inheritances based on asset purchase prices to fall out of the plan.They also see a straight, 15 percent minimum tax on overseas income as imperiled. Even some measures that looked like slam dunks may still be rejected because of the back-room lobbying campaign that has just begun.“They’re lobbying to try to escape their obligation to pay the taxes they owe, leaving working families to pay a larger share of the burden,” Mr. Biden said of corporate interests on Friday at the White House.Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesThat includes closing the so-called carried interest loophole, which allows richly compensated private equity and hedge fund managers to claim the fees they charge clients as investment income, subject to low capital gains tax rates, not income tax rates. Every president since Barack Obama has denounced the provision and demanded its closure, only to lose to influential lobbyists.The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday started a campaign to stop the loophole from being closed, saying doing so “would reduce investment, lead to widespread job losses and decrease tax revenues.” Mr. Wyden called the assertions “insulting to the intelligence of every American.”Administration officials insisted that taxing the rich and corporations would help sell the bill.“Should we let millions of children grow up in poverty in order to protect offshore tax loopholes?” Kate Bedingfield, the White House communications director, wrote to House Democrats in a memo on Tuesday. “Should we let middle-class families bear crushing costs for child care and elder care rather than asking the very richest among us to pay their fair share? Those are the questions before us.” More