According to History, the Tax Reform Process Is Just Getting Started

By Laura Davison and Colleen Murphy, Bloomberg BNA.

Republicans laid out an ambitious agenda at the start of the year to overhaul the tax code by the end of 2017.

But history suggests that there isn’t time for a complete overhaul by December. It took more than two years to pass tax legislation in 1986, which was shepherded through with bipartisan plans and buy-in from the White House. And as June begins, it’s unclear if the GOP has unified around the framework and cost of tax reform.

“At the rate we’re going, we’re going to have like a full proposal, you know, somewhere like 2075 or something like that,” Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said at a May 25 hearing. “We really got to get moving.”

House Ways and Means Republicans are still talking through the details of the blueprint they put out last year, and members are split on the controversial border adjustment tax at the center of the plan. Over in the Senate, lawmakers are unified in opposition to the import tax provision, and are currently reviewing previous tax reform plans for ideas. 

The White House released a one-page tax plan on April 26. The proposal outlined goals of tax cuts, but didn’t delve into the details of how to pay for those reductions, a necessary step for overhauling the tax system. National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn initially said the administration would release a more thorough plan later this summer, but lawmakers are now signaling that the next release will be unified legislation between the two chambers and the administration—a goal that some doubt can be achieved.