The recent “Trump Tax,” a massive and ill-considered tax reform bill that was passed by Congress despite widespread opposition and quickly signed into law, is easily the most egregious piece of legislation since the British Crown enacted the Stamp Act in 1764.
Although some working families may see a few small, temporary benefits next year, what is becoming patently obvious is that the new tax reforms are yet one more way to siphon wealth away from the 98% of Americans who actually work and produce goods and services and put it into the pockets of large corporations and the top 2%.
However, in their mad stampede to shove the bill through and get it to Trump’s desk, the Republicans apparently overlooked a few provisions that will make it more expensive for their millionaire and billionaire owners to do business. One of these involves a practice long used by business to impress customers and investors – and ironically, it could come back and bite the same lobbyists who actually wrote most of the bill.
The new provision targets “entertainment expenses” – the money that companies spend on things like deluxe box seats at sporting events, weekend “retreats” at Club Med and champagne galas at upscale art galleries. For almost as long has private enterprise has existed, those who own and operate companies have used such events to impress people with whom they hope to do business. Under the U.S. tax code, a company could deduct 50% of those costs from their annual taxes. However, as of 2018, such deductions have now been eliminated for what the Internal Revenue Code defines as “any activity generally considered to provide entertainment, amusement, or recreation, and includes meals provided to a customer or client.”
In addition, the new tax law eliminates deductions for dues paid for memberships in athletic clubs and social organizations, even when these expenses are business-related.
According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, eliminating this deduction will increase federal revenues by $23.5 billion over the next 10 years. According to a piece in Fortune, this provision was an attempt by the GOP to balance out the massive corporate tax cuts, which have been reduced from 35 percent to 21 percent.
The effects of losing this popular deduction could reach far beyond corporate accounting departments. One thing is certain: it will make the lives of those who work in sales and marketing more difficult. Ruth Wimer, a Washington D.C. attorney and certified public accountant, told an ABC News affiliate, “You can believe there’s going to be more pressure on the salespeople and marketing people to not go so crazy on the expenditures…it’s going to be a consideration for companies – it’s going to cost them.”
Sadly, while cutbacks may not affect professional sports teams, it is likely to have a chilling impact on other cultural institutions that otherwise receive little support from the free market. Kate McClanahan, who oversees federal affairs at Americans for the Arts, fears the new provision will “have a negative effect on both the commercial and the nonprofit arts.” In addition, some sports, such as professional tennis, may see major reductions in revenue. For example, the annual U.S. Open tennis tournament gets approximately 40 percent of its revenue from large businesses.
The bottom line: business owners who woo new customers and clients with evenings on the town or weekends at the each can no longer expect the federal government to help cover the bills.