Congress Experiences Christmas Miracle: Passes Major Legislation to End the Year

U.S. Capitol Building, Washington D.C.
U.S. Capitol Building, Washington D.C.

Congress is ending 2015 by passing a flurry of legislation that will have substantial impacts on businesses and individuals alike. Included is the first long-term transportation bill in a decade, a major education reform bill, a tax bill that extends numerous tax breaks, and a spending bill that will fund the government over the next year. Here are key highlights:

  • Business Taxes
    • R&D Credit – The R&D credit is extended permanently. And beginning in 2016, businesses with less than $50 million in gross receipts will be able to use the credit to offset alternative minimum tax.
    • Sec. 179 Expensing – is extended permanently and will continue to allow businesses to deduct up to $500,000 of asset acquisitions, with inflationary increases for future years.
    • Extends 15-year cost recovery for improvements to leasehold, restaurant and retail buildings permanently.
    • Bonus Depreciation – extended at 50% to 2017 then reducing to 30% in 2019 at which point it will phase out.
    • Obamacare Taxes – Delays the “Cadillac” excise tax on high-value health care plans to 2020 and suspends the 2.3% medical device tax for 2016 and 2017.
  • Individual Taxes
    • Child Care Tax Credit – Permanently extends the Child Care Tax Credit at $1,000 per child and retains the additional refundable portion of the credit.
    • American Opportunity Tax Credit – Permanently extends the American Opportunity Tax Credit at $2,500 for four years of post-secondary education.
  • Transportation – Earlier this month, the President signed into law a new five year transportation package (the first in a decade) that will spend $305 billion dollars on surface transportation projects including a 15% increase in spending on roads & bridges. The bill also creates new programs to improve freight highway corridors (potentially Hwy 14).
  • COOL – Repeals mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for beef and pork. This will stop retaliatory trade penalties of $1 billion against the United States authorized by the World Trade Organization over this issue.
  • Export – Import Bank – The charter of the Export Import Bank was extended to 2019, five months after it had expired.
  • Oil Export Ban – After four decades, a ban on exportation of American oil was lifted allowing domestic oil to be sold on world markets.
  • Education Reform – Nearly 15 years after passage of No Child Left Behind, Congress enacted sweeping changes to federal education law in the form of the Every Student Succeeds Act. While the new law retains testing requirements for grades 3-8 and once in high school, the law dramatically shifts decision-making power over the nation’s public schools back to state and local governments in areas like performance and accountability.

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