The IRS’s proposed pass-through deduction regulations are generating mixed reactions on Capitol Hill. The 184-page proposed regulations, REG-107892-18, aim to clarify certain complexities of the new, yet temporary, Code Sec. 199A deduction of up to 20 percent of income for pass-through entities. The new deduction was enacted through 2025 under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), ( P.L. 115-97). The pass-through deduction has remained one of the most controversial provisions of last year’s tax reform.

A legislative package that would make permanent the pass-through deduction, as well as other individual tax cuts, is expected to move though the House this fall. However, the House’s legislative efforts are not expected, at this time, to pass muster in the more narrowly GOP-controlled Senate.

Criticism

Several Democratic lawmakers and tax policy experts have already started to weigh in on the proposed regulations, which were released on August 8 while Congress remained in its annual August recess. Democrats have criticized the new deduction for primarily benefiting the wealthy. Meanwhile, several tax policy experts have taken to Twitter to note that the deduction is overly complex and administratively burdensome.

Senate Finance Committee (SFC) ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has reportedly said that the proposed regulations “confirm that the fortunate few win,” under the new tax law. “Tax planners are already scouring through the nearly 200 pages of regulations in search of new ways to keep wealthy clients from paying their fair share.”

Compliance Burdens

The pass-through deduction could add 25 million hours to taxpayers’ annual reporting burden, according to the proposed regulations. Additionally, the IRS has estimated that gross reporting annualized costs to taxpayers will total approximately $1.3 billion over 10 years.

Furthermore, the IRS has estimated that the compliance burden will vary between taxpayers, averaging between 30 minutes and 20 hours. The administrative burden on smaller pass-through entities is anticipated to be on the lower end of the estimate, according to the IRS.

Comment. Ryan Kelly, partner at Alston & Bird LLP, told Wolters Kluwer on August 13 that the IRS’s 25 million-hour estimate, whether accurate or not, suggests that there will be a significant increase in administrative compliance costs. “There is a real cost to tax compliance in lost time and productivity for taxpayers,” Kelly said. However, Kelly predicted that taxpayers’ Code Sec. 199A compliance burden will eventually decrease. “Time will reveal the extent of taxpayers’ administrative burden to comply; however, it is likely that as time goes on the taxpayers’ compliance burden will fall as taxpayers, tax practitioners, and the Service all become more familiar with section 199A and how it is intended to operate.”
Meanwhile, the chairs of the House and Senate tax writing committees have both praised Treasury and the IRS for quickly releasing the much anticipated regulations. Additionally, several tax policy experts have also praised the proposed regulations for alleviating confusion, as well as taxpayer anxiety, about ambiguous provisions of the law.

“This first-ever 20 percent deduction for small businesses allows our local job creators to keep more of their money so they can hire, invest, and grow in their communities,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Tex., said in a statement. “These proposed regulations are intended to provide certainty and flexibility for Main Street businesses in this historic new small business deduction.”

Improvements to the proposed regulations are expected in the coming months as stakeholders submit comments. A public hearing at IRS headquarters in Washington, D.C., has been scheduled for October 16. “Evolution of tax regulations is generally never a pretty process, but it is a necessary process that in this case will hopefully happen sooner rather than later,” Kelly told Wolters Kluwer.