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Tax Reform Bill Clears the U.S. Senate

In the early hours of Saturday, December 2, 2017, the United States Senate narrowly passed tax relief and reform legislation. The vote was 51 to 49 with all of the Republicans but one voting for passage and all of the Democrats voting against. CBAI anticipates that the differences between the competing House and Senate versions of this legislation will now be negotiated over the coming weeks in a conference committee, but the Senate bill is expected to remain largely intact.

This legislation represents the most significant overhaul of the tax system in the past 30 years and addresses a number of issues including: personal income tax rates, standard deductions, personal exemptions, state and local taxes, tax credits, the home mortgage interest deduction, other deductions, the individual insurance mandate, the Alternative Minimum Tax, inheritance taxes, corporate taxes, business write-offs and multi-national corporations.

One issue that concerned CBAI and ICBA in both the House and Senate bills was the unfair treatment of Subchapter “S” corporations. Approximately one-third of all community banks are organized under Subchapter “S”. Subjecting these community banks to a higher maximum tax rate would exacerbate the tax disparity among financial service providers, would disrupt the corporate and tax structure of the community bank profession, and would harm community banks’ ability to serve their customers and communities. CBAI issued an Action Alert, in conjunction with the ICBA, urging CBAI Subchapter “S” community bankers to weigh-in with their Member of Congress to ensure meaningful relief under the tax code. More than 3,500 community bankers responded to this Action Alert nationwide, and the Senate reportedly lowered the effective tax rate for Subchapter "S" businesses by providing a 23 percent deduction for qualified income.

A second issue raised during the Senate’s consideration of their tax plan was a provision that would force community banks to pay a tax on mortgage servicing, when the servicing right is created, and not over the years the income is collected. A similar provision was not included in the House bill. The mortgage servicing industry is rapidly consolidating and increasingly dominated by the very largest banks. None-the-less, a significant number of community banks choose to service their loans regardless of whether the loans are retained in portfolio or sold on the secondary market. There are numerous examples of large bank and servicing company missteps and customer abuse and neglect in loan servicing, but that is not the case with community banks. Community banks are more responsive to their customers and more willing to work with distressed borrowers. The mortgage market needs more community banks servicing loans, not less. This tax increase would have forced some community banks to stop servicing loans, reduce profitability for those that remain in the business, and further consolidate the mortgage servicing industry.  Thankfully through the efforts of Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and others, this provision was removed from the Senate legislation.

Unfortunately, the tax disparity between community banks and credit unions and the Farm Credit System was not addressed in either the House or Senate tax reform bills. Congress is missing the perfect opportunity to level the playing field between community banks and their tax payer subsidized entities. CBAI will continue to highlight this discrimination against tax-paying community banks.

Speculation is that Congress will pass meaningful tax reform before Christmas. CBAI will also work together with the ICBA and the Illinois congressional delegation to protect our hard-won victories and improve the legislation for community banks and the customers and communities that they serve. Read ICBA Release.

December 5, 2017