Legislation from U.S. House committee would raise taxes on independent agencies.
WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 15, 2021 — The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I") today voiced opposition to the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee's passage of legislation that would raise roughly $2 trillion of new revenue through tax increases on businesses and individuals.
“The Big 'I' was disappointed to see House Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee vote to move forward with a number of substantial tax increases on our nation's small businesses," says Charles Symington, Big “I" senior vice president of external, industry and government affairs. “The last 18 months have been incredibly difficult for small businesses across the country, with many being forced to close permanently due to the coronavirus pandemic. As Main Street small businesses try to recover, the last thing they need to be worried about is a tax increase coming out of Washington, D.C."
The legislation includes several harmful provisions for small businesses. Important for pass-through businesses, it would raise the current top individual tax rate from 37% to 39.6% while adding an additional 3% surtax on individuals with adjusted gross income exceeding $5 million or $2.5 million for a married individual filing separately. The plan also takes aim at the 20% small business deduction by setting the maximum allowable deduction at $500,000 for joint returns, $400,000 for an individual return and $250,000 for a married individual filing a separate return.
Additionally, the proposal increases the top capital gains tax rate from 20% to 25%, effective after Sept. 13, 2021, the date House Democrats introduced the tax portions of their legislation. The legislation also replaces the flat corporate income tax with a graduated rate structure. The rate structure provides for a rate of 18% on the first $400,000 of income; 21% on income up to $5 million; and 26.5% on income thereafter. The benefit of the graduated rate phases out for corporations making more than $10 million.
“The Big 'I' is especially concerned with the combined impact that these tax increases will have on Big 'I' members and their clients," says Wyatt Stewart, Big “I" assistant vice president of federal government affairs. “The Big 'I' urges House Democrats to oppose these tax increases as the legislation makes its way to the House floor. As the economy tries to recover from the impacts of COVID-19, now is not the time to increase taxes on our nation's job creators."
Founded in 1896, the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I") is the nation's oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing more than 25,000 agency locations united under the Trusted Choice® brand. Trusted Choice independent agents offer consumers all types of insurance—property, casualty, life, health, employee benefit plans and retirement products—from a variety of insurance companies.
This week, Governor Hochul announced the Department of Health has designated COVID-19 an “airborne infectious disease," triggering activation of the NY HERO Act. All businesses are immediately required to implement their airborne infectious disease prevention plans required under the HERO Act. Big I NY and a broad-based group of business associations opposed this measure, expressing concerns it will be overly burdensome and unwarranted. Learn more about your compliance requirements here
Also this week, Governor Hochul signed a bill which will hold construction contractors jointly and severally liable for wage theft violations of their subcontractors, including unpaid wages, benefits, wage supplements, penalties, liquidated damages, attorneys fees, and other costs, for up to six years after the completion of work. The bill is likely to impose significant new costs and liability on construction contractors.
Congress has now begun working on the details of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, and tax increases currently “on the table." These include: a significant increase in the corporate tax rate, raising the top individual tax rate, nearly doubling the capital gains tax rate, potential elimination of “stepped up" basis, and modification/elimination of the Section 199A 20% small business tax deduction for pass-throughs. Agency owners in New York are being asked to call the office of Representative Tom Suozzi, who sits on the Ways & Means Committee, regardless of whether he is your representative. Click here for talking points and contact information
Congress has now begun working on the details of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package that addresses issues like climate change, federal paid leave, Medicare expansion, childcare assistance, free community college and much more. To pay for such a large expansion of the federal government, Congressional Democrats are considering numerous tax changes that would impact your agency and your clients. Tax increases currently “on the table” include: a significant increase in the corporate tax rate, raising the top individual tax rate, nearly doubling the capital gains tax rate, potential elimination of “stepped up” basis, and modification/elimination of the Section 199A 20% small business tax deduction for pass-throughs.
The House Ways & Means Committee is beginning to mark up the bill TODAY and will continue into next week. Agency owners in New York are being asked to call the office of Representative Tom Suozzi, who sits on the Ways & Means Committee, regardless of whether he is your representative. Please convey the talking points below. Calls are not limited to agency owners. This issue impacts employees and family members as well. Please encourage them to place calls.
Representative Tom Suozzi
DC Office: (202) 225-3335
- Please oppose tax increases on small business that the Ways & Means Committee is considering to “pay for” the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package.
- Increasing tax rates on pass-throughs and C corporations, capping or eliminating the small business tax deduction, increasing the capital gains tax and eliminating stepped-up basis would deliver a crushing blow to main street businesses, particularly when communities are recovering from the pandemic.
- Altogether, these taxes pose a triple threat to the ability of businesses to survive by raising taxes on main street businesses when they operate, when they are sold, and when they are passed on to the next generation.
On August 31st, Governor Hochul nominated Adrienne Harris as Superintendent of Financial Services, the head of the Department of Financial Services. Harris replaces Linda Lacewell, who resigned on August 24th.
Harris brings extensive experience in economics and financial services. She served as a special assistant for economic policy for President Obama at the National Economic Council, and previously worked for the Brunswick Group as a senior advisor to financial companies, venture capital firms, and fintechs. Since leaving the White House in January 2017, Harris went on to serve as General Counsel and Chief Business Officer, and presently as Advisor at States Title, Inc. (now DOMA), which provides title insurance and settlement services in a number of state throughout the nation. She currently serves as a Professor and Faculty Co-Director at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy's Center on Finance, Law and Policy at the University of Michigan.
We look forward to working with Superintendent Harris to ensure a vibrant future for the state's independent insurance agencies and the customers we serve.
Read the press release announcing Harris' appointment here.
On Tuesday, Kathy Hochul was sworn in as the 57th Governor of New York, pledging civility and a departure from the tactics of the former administration. On Thursday, she appointed state senator Brian Benjamin (D, Harlem) to serve as her Lieutenant Governor, to be sworn in after Labor Day. Benjamin holds an MBA from Harvard Business school, and previously worked as an affordable housing developer and investment banker at Morgan Stanley. He was first elected to the State Senate in 2017, and ran unsuccessfully for New York City Comptroller in 2021. We look forward to working with Governor Hochul and Lieutenant Governor Benjamin to ensure a vibrant future for the state's independent insurance agencies and the customers we serve.
Also this week, Senator Mike Gianaris (D, Queens) and Assemblywoman Karines Reyes (D, Bronx) sent a letter to Governor Hochul, urging her to activate the newly-enacted HERO Act. The HERO Act requires businesses to establish stringent safety protocols, and make potentially costly expenditures for PPE, capacity and staffing restrictions, and other measures. Big I NY, along with two dozen other business groups pushed back publicly, noting that the move would be unwarranted and extremely damaging to struggling small businesses. Said Ashley Ranslow, Assistant State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business:
“Reinstating COVID-era restrictions would be the nail in the coffin for many small businesses that have fought desperately to keep their businesses afloat and employees working. Recovery is still a long way away and small businesses and the state's economy cannot afford to take a step backward with capacity restrictions and strict and costly protocols."
Read the joint letter to Governor Hochul here.
As a reminder, employers currently have compliance obligations under the HERO Act, including the establishment of an Airborne Infectious Disease Prevention Plan and other requirements. Learn more what you are required to do here
On Tuesday, August 10th, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation as the state's 56th governor, effective August 24th. Kathy Hochul, the current Lieutenant Governor, will succeed him for the remainder of the term, becoming the state's first female governor. Hochul, a moderate Democrat and upstate native confirmed on Thursday that she intends to run for governor in 2022.
At a recent press conference, Hochul reiterated that Andrew Cuomo remains the Governor until August 24th, and she will work with him on an orderly transition. She also indicated that she intends to announce who she will appoint as her Lieutenant Governor in the coming weeks, and has reportedly begun the process of selecting her staff.
In the short term, Hochul will influence the fate of two bills of concern passed by the legislature but yet to be sent to the governor's desk – a bill to restrict underwriting based on dog breed, and a bill which would, among other things, trigger the automatic disclosure of an insured's insurance information and policy application information in civil litigation. Big I NY has urged Governor Cuomo to veto these bills, and will continue to work with the Hochul administration to this end. At this time it is not known when the legislature will transmit the bills for executive action.
While it is too early to say with any certainty, Hochul's political career and public commitments to date suggest her leadership style will emphasize consensus building and transparency. The key question is to what extent the self-described “independent Democrat" will act as a check or moderating influence on the progressive state Senate and Assembly. We welcome the opportunity to work with Governor Hochul to strengthen our state's economy, promote a healthy insurance market that offers choice and affordability, and protect policyholders.
Update, 3:00PM: Linda Lacewell, Superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services, to resign effective 8/24.
Albany, NY - Big I NY AVP of Government Relations Scott Hobson gives us an update from Albany regarding the news that Governor Cuomo will be resigning in 14 days. Watch here.
On August 2nd, Governor Cuomo signed legislation which permits NYSIF to write workers' compensation coverage for policyholders' out-of-state employees. NYSIF will partner with carriers in other states to provide coverage to businesses doing work outside of NY, provided the business has more payroll or premium in NY than in all other states combined.
According to a press release, NYSIF expects to begin offering this coverage beginning the first half of 2022.
Contact Scott Hobson with any questions.
The legislature is adjourned and not scheduled to reconvene until January 2022. However, two Big I NY-opposed bills were passed by the legislature, and will be sent to the Governor for signature or veto. Big I NY is calling on the Governor to veto both of these bills.
Disclosure of Policy Information in Litigation – S.7052/A8041
At the 11th hour, the Senate and Assembly rushed through legislation mandating that all insurance documents be disclosed early in litigation, including insurance application documents. We opposed this bill on the grounds that it creates serious privacy concerns for insureds, as insurance applications contain a large amount of personal information that should not be disclosed publicly. Furthermore this bill further tips the balance of New York's legal system in favor of plaintiffs' attorneys, allowing them to engage in “fishing expeditions" for information to drive higher payouts. This would worsen the state's already abysmal legal climate, resulting in higher costs for policyholders.
Dog Breed Underwriting Bill – A.4075/S.4245
This legislation would prohibit insurers from canceling, refusing to issue or renew, or charging higher premiums for homeowners' insurance based on the breed of a dog. We are concerned this bill will lead to higher premiums for all homeowners as they will have to in effect subsidize premiums for owners of risky breeds.
Contact Scott Hobson with questions.
On June 24th, Governor Cuomo announced the end of the COVID-19 State of Emergency, thus ending the associated emergency executive orders. This means that for the time being, remote notarization is no longer authorized, and the notary rules revert to the pre-pandemic state. However, the legislature recently passed a Big I NY-supported bill to allow remote notarization on a permanent basis. That bill has not yet been sent to the Governor, and once it is signed as anticipated, it will take effect in 120 days.
We do not have an exact timeframe as to when the bill will be sent to the governor and signed, but we do know that the soonest remote notarization could be permitted again is 120 days. We will notify our members when this occurs, but until then, notarizations should be conducted following the pre-pandemic rules.
Contact Scott Hobson with any questions.