© 2021 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
News Partners

How The GOP Tax Bill Benefits Big Businesses

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And that Republican tax plan that passed the Senate over the weekend has plenty of benefits for businesses. But some businesses are going to benefit more than others, thanks to wrangling by lawmakers. And NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell is in our studio this morning.

Good morning, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: So you have actually been poring through this tax bill, right?

SNELL: That's right.

GREENE: It's like 500 pages long.

SNELL: Just shy (laughter).

GREENE: That sounds fun.

SNELL: Yeah (laughter).

GREENE: So - but that means that you're just actually now getting a sense for what really is in there because all this stuff was stuffed in, taken out in those final hours.

SNELL: Yeah, we didn't see a very final bill until yesterday afternoon. And they were making changes up until the very last minute. There are some surprises here. We mostly - and nearly every last-minute change was about businesses, though. So we could kind of narrow our focus and see which businesses were winning and losing.

GREENE: Well, I mean, it sounded like a lot of the late-hour, late-stage wrangling was Republicans going out of their way to make sure big corporations were not getting all of the goodies. So these were lawmakers, like, trying to make sure that small businesses in their states, you know, benefited as well?

SNELL: Yeah. So a lot of the wrangling came from Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Senator Steve Daines of Montana. The two of them really wanted to make sure that all of the goodies weren't just going to corporations. They wanted small businesses to have a bigger benefit. And a part of that was securing more deductions.

First of all, we saw big changes for oil and gas companies that were advocated for by Texas Senator Cornyn. And we also saw real estate investors, like Trump, are going to get the same benefits as small businesses. So those things popped in in the last hours before we saw the bill.

GREENE: OK. So helping small businesses but also helping real estate investors...

SNELL: Right.

GREENE: ...And some of these big-time companies. The narrative of this tax bill was that it's great for big corporations. So are big corporations seeing the biggest benefits still overall?

SNELL: Yeah, absolutely, because they are going to see the lowest tax rates. They are going to see their rates cut from a top, top rate of 35 percent down to a top, top rate of 20 percent.

So it's important to remember that most of these companies didn't pay the top rate to begin with. They got a lot of deductions. They had a lot of write-offs, and they could pay lower taxes. But we're going to see companies - like, big tech companies with a lot of money overseas are going to get great benefits because they're going to be taxed at an even lower, lower rate to bring money back in overseas. So places like Google and Apple will be able to get a much lower tax rate to reinvest their money here in the U.S.

GREENE: So this bill started out at over 500 pages. And in those final hours, it seemed to magically shrink. I mean, was that just tightening language and editing?

(LAUGHTER)

GREENE: Or was a lot of stuff cut out that was going to be in there?

SNELL: Sure. Some of that's just the normal process. Writing a big bill like this is difficult, and there are some really strict Senate rules that govern what can actually go into this tax bill and still pass with just 50 votes, which is what Republicans wanted - to make sure that it could pass with just Republican votes. So again, some of that - about maybe half of that - is getting rid of things to fit the rules.

Other parts were political. So we saw things like a - they wanted to get rid of a tax-exempt status for professional sports leagues, and that was originally in the bill. But by the time it came to the floor, that was gone. And so - I guess golf still uses it, and hockey will still be able to get their tax break if they want to use it.

GREENE: Depends which senators like which sports, maybe.

(LAUGHTER)

SNELL: I suppose that's right. And, you know, they also got rid of a measure that would have let families start saving for college before a child's even born. So there are these things called 529 savings accounts, where people can start saving money to put towards future college expenses. There was a part of the bill originally that would have said that if you're pregnant, you can start saving. But instead, they put in a provision so you could use those special savings accounts to pay for private school for K-12 education. So that will be the first time that school choice advocates are going to see that benefit.

GREENE: OK. So before I let you go, I've got this 500-page document that you've been poring over. What happens now as things go towards, you know, answering the big question as to whether something ends up on President Trump's desk?

SNELL: Yeah. So yesterday, the House voted to start what's called a conference committee. It's the process that they use to work out the differences between the House and the Senate. Senate hasn't taken their vote yet. We're expecting to see that in the next couple days. But over the next two weeks, they're going to sit in a room - largely behind closed doors - and work out what ends up in a final bill. They're hoping to vote within the next two weeks.

GREENE: All right, NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell in our studios. Thanks.

SNELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.