Sparkling wine, jets, the unborn and other special-interest wins in the tax bill
Posted November 15, 2017 11:11 a.m. EST
(CNN) — On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee unveiled the latest version of a GOP tax plan, which includes a proposal to repeal Obamacare's requirement that most people have health care coverage or pay a fine. That's the most notable new provision in the revised tax overhaul, but it is far from the only one.
Indeed, this latest plan includes a number of modifications and potential sweeteners for lawmakers and industries. Many of these goodies have been lobbied for over years and narrowly appeal to specific states or interest groups. Others are meant to address fallout from the unveiling of the separate bill being considered by the House of Representatives (the two will eventually have to be reconciled). Some industry groups and business leaders spoke out against what they perceive to be harmful changes to the tax code.
Below are some of the more obscure amendments in the latest Senate bill.
No tax deductions on sexual harassment settlements
This revision comes as Capitol Hill reckons with its own handling of sexual harassment and assault cases. Under the current tax code, many payouts and legal fees resulting from these types of cases can be written off as business expenses.
Under the new proposal, "no deduction is allowed for any settlement, payout, or attorney fees related to sexual harassment or sexual abuse if such payments are subject to a nondisclosure agreement."
A similar amendment was introduced to the House version of the bill by Colorado Republican Rep. Ken Buck, who said in a press release that the modification is meant to eliminate "the business expense deduction for hush money associated with sexual assault and sexual harassment cases."
Citrus growers can deduct the cost of replanting trees
The modifications text has one change that is popular in Florida. Citrus plants lost or damaged due to causes like freezing, natural disaster or disease can be deducted under the new bill. This deduction currently exists for farmers of other plants, but not tree-growers. The Senate bill modification gives the deduction to citrus growers.
Rights for the unborn
As does the House version of the plan, the Senate proposal includes a definition of an unborn child and stipulates that they are eligible for a college savings account.
For the purposes of opening a 529 saving account, the text reads, "an unborn child means a child in utero, and the term child in utero means a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb."
Currently, even without a change to the tax code, parents can open 529 accounts in their own names before children are born and change the beneficiaries at a later time. There are no tax consequences for changing the beneficiary to another family member, according to the IRS.
Anti-abortion-rights groups had praised the similar House provision.
"A child in the womb is just as human as you or I, yet until now the U.S. tax code has failed to acknowledge the unborn child -- all while granting tax breaks for those seeking an abortion under the pretense of 'health care,'" said Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, in a statement.
Abortion rights advocates, however, slammed the both the Senate and House provisions, charging they would result in restricting access to abortion.
"Asserting an anti-abortion provision under the guise of college affordability is a new low even for this anti-choice GOP," NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement. "The sole purpose of this provision is to codify the radical, anti-choice idea that life begins at conception into law and begin the process of banning abortion altogether."
Wine and beer will be cheaper
The bill makes extensive modifications to the taxation of alcohol. It lowers a tax on barrels of beer brewed or imported. It also changes how aging periods for beer, wine and spirits are deducted. A tax credit on wine production limited to small domestic producers is extended to all wineries, and sparkling wine producers and importers become eligible for the credit as well. Taxes are also lowered on certain kinds of beverages, like mead.
It's cheaper to store and staff private jets
Payments by aircraft owners to companies that manage aircraft are made exempt from certain transportation taxes. Aircraft management companies perform services like storage, maintenance and fueling, and hiring and operating crew. Aircraft hangars will be cheaper to manage with the changes of the bill. For years, aircraft industry leaders have asked lawmakers to eliminate management fee taxes paid by private jet owners.
Child tax credit expansion
The latest revisions increase the child tax credit to $2,000 from $1,650 in the original proposal and $1,000 in current law. The amendment was filed by Sens. Dean Heller of Nevada and Tim Scott of South Carolina.
"We set out to ensure that tax reform would help hardworking American families, and an increased child tax credit will do just that," Scott said in a statement. "As the child of a single mother, I truly can't overstate how important these dollars will be for parents across the country, be it to help buy school supplies, a new pair of sneakers or just have a night out as a family. I want to thank my colleagues for their important work on this issue."
Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah, both of whom had advocated for an increase, praised the move.
The inclusion of the amendment is also a win for first daughter and presidential adviser Ivanka Trump, who had pushed for the expansion of the tax credit as one of her key policy positions.
Education expenses are back
The House's tax bill drew outcry for removing a $250 deduction teachers could take for buying supplies for their classrooms. The Senate bill not only restores the deduction but also doubles it to $500.
Stock options for start-ups
Following outcry from venture capitalists and technology executives, the revised Senate bill does not change taxes on stock options. The original bill proposed to tax stock options on the day they were vested instead of when they were cashed in, according to the Los Angeles Times. One start-up cofounder said the change would have been "a catastrophic blow to early stage companies," according to Bloomberg.