The Senate blocked a Democratic resolution on October 23 to overturn Treasury rules preventing certain workarounds to the $10,000 state and local tax (SALT) federal deduction cap.

SALT Cap Workaround

Senate Democrats’ resolution, S.J. Res. 50, forced a vote on Wednesday to nullify Treasury regulations that block taxpayers from circumventing the SALT cap through certain states’ programs that convert state and local taxes into fully deductible charitable contributions. The resolution failed by a largely party-line vote of 43-to-52.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., voted against the Democratic measure while Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., supported it. While the resolution would not repeal the SALT cap itself, House Democrats are reportedly crafting legislation to do so. Democrats and some Republicans, particularly from high-tax states, have criticized the SALT cap since its enactment in 2017 under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) ( P.L. 115-97).

Debate on SALT Cap, Treasury Rules

“Without any clear authority to do so, the Treasury Department reversed a long-standing IRS position that had allowed taxpayers a full deduction for charitable contributions to state tax credit programs,” Senate Finance Committee (SFC) ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said on the Senate floor before the vote. “My view is the Treasury Department should not be putting its thumb on the scale on behalf of Republican interests, and it shouldn’t be using phony regulatory justifications to fix Republicans’ extraordinarily poorly drafted law.”

However, several Republicans cited to a recent report from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), which estimated that repealing the SALT cap beginning in 2019 would result in over $40 billion of the associated tax cut going to taxpayers with incomes of at least $1 million ( JCX-35-19).

“It’s bad enough that my Democratic colleagues want to unwind tax reform, but it’s downright comical that their top priority is helping wealthy people in blue states find loopholes to pay even less,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said from the Senate floor on October 23. “Repealing the SALT cap would give millionaires an average tax cut of $60,000. Meanwhile, the average tax cut for taxpayers earning between $50,000 and $100,000 would be less than ten dollars.”

Vaping Tax

In other news, the House Ways and Means Committee approved a bipartisan vaping tax bill, ( HR 4742), on October 23 by a 24-to-15 vote. The bill would establish a $27.81 tax per gram of nicotine used in vaping devices.