Chairman Kevin Brady of the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Ways and Means today introduced the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” H.R. 1, and it does not contain good news for municipal issuers of tax-exempt bonds and private sector entities able to borrow on a tax-exempt basis.
Among other things, H.R. 1 would eliminate municipalities’ ability to issue advance refunding bonds, i.e. refunding bonds where the refunding occurs more than 90 days after the date of issuance. Congress already had heavily restricted the issuance of advance refunding bonds through the enactment of the 1986 Internal Revenue Code, which limited governmental and 501(c)(3) bond issues to a single advance refunding. Beginning in 2018, advance refundings could not be issued on a tax-exempt basis.
H.R. 1 would also eliminate all private activity bonds, currently authorized under sections 142 (exempt facility bonds), 143 (certain mortgage bonds), 144 (small issue bonds), and 145 (501(c)(3) bonds). Again, beginning in 2018, all such private activity bonds could not be issued on a tax-exempt basis.
The bill would also eliminate municipalities’ ability to issue bonds to finance professional sports stadiums – a controversial ability in its own right that seems unlikely to generate the kind of opposition that may be seen on the other proposals (unless you’re Jerry Jones).
These proposals, if enacted, would apparently not affect existing bonds issued and outstanding prior to the effective date. However, preliminary analysis suggests that any change in the terms of an existing bond resulting in a “reissuance” for tax purposes would result in a loss of tax-exempt status, if the reissued bond fell within one of the disfavored categories.
With H.R. 1 just being introduced today, it remains to be seen what becomes of it. However, the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans have made it clear that they want to pass this bill before the end of 2017. Municipalities, 501(c)(3) organizations, and other private businesses affected by it may have to move fast if they want to push for changes to the bill.