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3 Ways to Bring About Tax Reform 2.0

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

 As I’ve noted in a couple of recent columns, Americans from all walks of life have reason to be grateful for last year’s tax cuts. They’ve proved to be quite a boon.

The ink was hardly dry before companies began offering workers bonuses and pay raises. Employment is on such an upswing that jobs outnumber job applicants. The typical household will enjoy a $1,400 tax cut this year. Average wages went up by 2.9 percent last month — the largest wage increase since 2009.

But lawmakers shouldn’t rest on their laurels. They would be wise to lock in the gains that we’ve been enjoying -- and ensure that they continue.

Fortunately, some members of Congress have the same idea. Let’s look at three crucial ways that we can bring about Tax Reform 2.0.

The first and most obvious: Make last year’s cuts permanent.

Right now, they aren’t. Key provisions of the tax cut – such as lower rates, larger standard deductions for single and married filers, and a doubled child tax credit – are slated to expire after 2025. That’s a mistake. If people and companies can know that those provisions won’t disappear in a few years, they can grow the economy even more.

So step one is a no-brainer: remove the uncertainty. Get rid of that expiration date, as the Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act of 2018 would do.

Step two of Tax Reform 2.0: Simplify and expand family savings.

Many Americans take advantage of the tax benefits of 401(k)s and other retirement savings accounts. Yet others, deterred by their complexity and high compliance costs, fail to use these important tools. It’s time to change that.

“Tax reform 2.0 will work to allow small employers to pool together to offer retirement benefits, repeal the maximum age for new contributions, add new exemptions from minimum distribution rules, as well as other modifications,” writes tax expert Adam Michel.

But it’s not just retirement savings that need a boost. Tax Reform 2.0 includes a new universal savings account that would let taxpayers contribute up to $2,500 to invest and spend on their family’s priorities – just like savings for retirement, but without all the strings. $2,500 is better than nothing, of course, but why so low? It should be higher.

Or what about education savings? Last year’s tax legislation made it so parents could use “529” plans for not just college, but for K-12 expenses. Great, but now it’s time to expand them to homeschooling and other “non-traditional” education costs.

All of these savings reforms -- along with one that would allow families to access retirement accounts to support parental leave for the birth or adoption of a new child -- are part of the “Family Savings Act of 2018,” introduced by Rep. Frank Kelly (R-Penn.).

The third component of Tax Reform 2.0: Encourage new businesses by lowering start-up costs.

Under current law, new businesses can deduct only up to $5,000 of their initial start-up expenses. That means they have to write off the remaining costs over the next 15 years.

You don’t have to be a business owner to realize that $5,000 is ridiculously low. The amount should be significantly higher. (The American Innovation Act of 2018 would raise it to $20,000.) In an ideal world, businesses wouldn’t have to wait years to deduct start-up expenses. The law should be changed to let them do so immediately.

Last year’s tax cut has done a lot of good work so far. As a quick stop at shows, taxpayers in every single congressional district are benefitting. But it wasn’t a perfect fix. If we want to ensure that the glowing economic news we’ve been hearing lately continues, we need to make the cuts permanent and build on them.

Tax Reform 2.0 can make that happen. It’s time for an upgrade.

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