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Republican tax plan offers mixed bag for energy

27 Sep 2017, 5.42 pm GMT

Republican tax plan offers mixed bag for energy

Washington, 27 September (Argus) — Energy companies will find things to like in a tax plan backed by President Donald Trump that would cut corporate rates to 20pc, although some prized deductions could be lost.

Republican leaders today released the most details to date in a tax overhaul plan they say would supercharge economic growth and allow companies to keep more of their earnings. The plan was written by the Republican chairmen of the House and Senate tax-writing committees and senior administration officials including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnunchin.

It would cut corporate rates from an existing top rate of 35pc, eliminate all taxes on foreign profits and allow companies to immediately write off the cost of capital investments for at least five years. Those policies could mean higher profits for US-based oil companies with operations around the world, along with tax benefits for energy companies building new facilities or making expansions.

But Republicans are also proposing to eliminate tax policies that benefit the energy sector. The plan would limit, by an unspecific amount, deductions on interest payments that pipeline owners and other debt-reliant energy companies use to raise capital. It would also scrap a manufacturing tax deduction called "section 199" the oil sector has rallied to protect in the past.

The tax plan would retain a tax credit for research and development spending. But it casts doubt on other cherished tax policies, such as a deduction for "intangible" drilling costs that independent oil and gas producers want to retain. The plan says other tax breaks could be eliminated, as lawmakers try to eliminate "loopholes" that benefit specific industries in favor of overall lower rates.

"While the framework envisions repeal of other business credits, the committees may decide to retain some other business credits to the extent budgetary limitations allow," the plan said.

Wind and solar companies face some of the greatest unknowns from the tax overhaul. Reducing the corporate tax rate to 20pc could reduce the benefits of a solar industry investment tax credit, by reducing demand for those tax credits. Solar developers usually sell the credits to third parties to finance projects.

The tax plan does not say whether it would attempt to eliminate wind and solar tax credits that, under a bipartisan deal in 2015, are being phased out.

Republicans want to enact the tax cuts using a process called reconciliation that would allow enactment with just 50 votes in the US Senate, avoiding the need for Democratic support. But that process will require them to agree on a budget bill and would have to be sunset after 10 years unless lawmakers show it will not add to the deficit. The maneuver also risks a repeat of Trump's doomed effort to overhaul health care policy, where only three Republican senators could block legislative changes.

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