SALT Cap Not Unconstitutionally Coercive (State of New York v. Mnuchin),(Oct. 2, 2019)

02 October 2019

A district court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by four states’ against the federal government, ruling that the $10,000 state and local taxes (SALT) federal deduction cap is not unconstitutionally coercive.

In 2018, New York, Connecticut, Maryland, and New Jersey filed suit against the IRS and Treasury alleging that the SALT cap violates the federalism principles that undergird the U.S. Constitution. Judge J. Paul Oetken of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled on September 30 that the SALT cap is not an unconstitutional infringement of state power.

The states’ primary concern stemmed from the claim that the introduction of the SALT cap could impair each of the states’ ability to pursue its own preferred tax policies. However, the court noted that Congress lawfully enacted the SALT cap pursuant to its broad tax powers under Article I, section 8 and the Sixteenth Amendment, and that the cap, like any federal tax provision, will affect some taxpayers more than others and, by extension, will affect some states more than others. However, the cap, like every other feature of the federal tax code, is a part of the landscape of federal law with which states make their decisions as to how they will exercise their own sovereign tax powers, according to Oetken. Because the states failed to plausibly allege that the cap, more so than any other major federal initiative, meaningfully constrains this decision-making process, the district court had no basis for concluding that the SALT cap is unconstitutionally coercive.

Background

In 2017, President Trump signed into law sweeping tax reform legislation informally known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) (P.L. 115-97), which made several substantial amendments to the federal tax code. Among other things, the TCJA placed an upper limit on the amount a taxpayer may deduct from their federally taxable income to offset those sums they have paid toward certain state and local taxes (the “SALT cap”). As enacted, the SALT cap is scheduled to expire at the end of 2025.

Democrats on Capitol Hill Prepare to Move SALT Cap Repeal Bill

Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill are preparing to move a SALT cap repeal bill when Congress returns from its two-week recess. Specifically, Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J. has proposed repealing the SALT cap and raising the top income tax rate from 37 percent to where it previously sat at 39.6 percent. Additionally, Pascrell recently told reporters that House Democrats will likely propose a temporary repeal of the SALT cap as a “compromise.”

At this time, however, any Democratic-backed measure to repeal or scale back the SALT cap is expected to fail in the Republican-controlled Senate, (TAXDAY, 2019/09/11, C.1).

With contribution from Jessica Jeane, Senior News Editor