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Secretary Yellen Noncommital On Trading CTC For SALT

Department of the Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was noncommittal on the idea of trading a permanent child tax credit for the elimination of the state and local tax deduction.

Yellen was faced with this question during a March 16, 2023, Senate Finance Committee hearing convened to discuss the Biden Administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2024 and the corresponding so-called Greenbook,” which outlines proposed changes to tax policy that in total reflect how the government plans to pay for changes to the overall budget.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) noted that the White House budget proposal increases the child tax credit from $2,000 to $3,600 and makes it fully refundable and deliverable on a monthly basis.

“However, I see they didn’t make that change permanent,” Sen. Daines said, adding that increase would expire in 2025. “My question is this: does the President believe that the child tax credit should be made permanent for $3,600? And if so, are you willing to eliminate the SALT deduction, which overwhelmingly benefits the wealthy, to give working families an expanded child tax credit that, importantly, never ends?”

Yellen explained that the reason for the proposed expanded tax credit expiring in 2025 is due to other provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that will expire in 2025 that affect the child tax credit.

“And then there will need to be consideration of what to do,” Yellen said, while offering no explicit comment on the desire to make the child tax credit permanent and not addressing at all the possibility of making the CTC permanent while at the same time eliminating the SALT deduction.

One point Yellen was challenged on was on the promise that there would be no increases in taxes on individuals and corporations making less than $400,000. Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) suggested that President Biden would not be able to keep that promise based on provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that would sunset in or after 2025.

“Well, there certainly are aspects of the TCJA that, if they sunset, would impact households [with] taxpayers earning under $400,000,”” Yellen testified. “And the President has, as you mentioned, pledged he doesn’t want to see taxes raised by a penny on anyone making under that. He stands ready to work with Congress.”

However, when pressed further to provide a list of those sunsetting provisions that could push taxes higher for taxpayers making under $400,000, Yellen said that “I don’t know that I can provide you with that. I think there are a lot of complicated provisions.” She declined to commit to providing the information within the two-week time frame that Sen. Young asked for, but pledged to work with the committee to provide the information.

A Mirror Of Previous Testimony

For the questions that covered the budget, the committee touched on many of the same subjects and asked similar questions of Yellen that the House Ways and Means Committee did on March 10, 2023, although conversations about the budget at times took a back seat to discussion on the recent bank failures and the government’s response to it as well as the looming need to address the debt ceiling.

When the budget was discussed, Yellen promoted the improvements to customer service, noting that the Internal Revenue Service has answered “hundreds of thousands” of more call calls this tax season than at the same point last year. She also pushed the Biden Administration’s targeting of the highest earning taxpayers, both individual and corporate, to get them to pay their fair share.

Yellen also reiterated the defense of the United States’ participation in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s work on building a framework for implementing a global corporate minimum tax structure. She did emphasize that any agreement would not violate existing tax treaties between the United States and other individual countries, although there was pushback on whether that was accurate.

She also promoted the provisions in the Greenbook that will help close the housing supply gap, noting the budget has provisions to make to make rent and ownership more affordable.

Yellen also said the IRS plan to spend the $80 billion that was allocated to agency in the Inflation Reduction Act would be ready in the coming weeks.

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