Economic Issues Top Congressional Agenda; CPA Issues in Mix

September 8, 2011

Debt reduction and jobs creation top the agenda as Congress returns to work after the Labor Day holiday and kicks off the last quarter in the 2011 Congressional session.  Issues particularly important to CPAs are on the calendar, too. 

The Senate began its legislative work with a Sept. 6 vote to begin debate on the America Invents Act, which includes a provision to stop tax strategies patents that the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants has championed.  First up on the economic front are the Sept. 8 organizational meeting of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, or Super Committee, created by the Budget Control Act of 2011, and President Obama’s Sept. 8 speech to a joint session of Congress to detail his jobs proposal.  The President’s jobs agenda is expected to emphasize infrastructure spending and an extension of the two percent employee payroll tax reduction, as well as other tax provisions.

The work of the Super Committee and job creation proposals will garner much attention over the next few months; however, additional issues will have to be addressed by Congress while the Super Committee works to find agreement on reducing the deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.  Passing the Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations bills or a continuing resolution to fund government operations after September 30 will dominate most of the month of September.  In order to prevent another debate regarding a government shut down, the Congress and the President will need to reach agreement on an overall funding level for government operations quickly. 

The leaders of the House and Senate have said that they will move forward on the three pending free trade agreements with Columbia, Panama and South Korea.   In order to move these trade agreements forward, a deal has been reached on the reauthorization of Trade Adjustment Assistance, which is a program to aid individuals who have lost their jobs due to trade agreements.  The free trade bills will be submitted to Congress for ratification after the vote on the TAA is offered.  The President and proponents of the agreements in Congress have described these bills as job creators which could help in them getting signed into law.

In line for Congressional consideration this fall are bills the AICPA has been working to have passed.
The House Financial Services Committee has shown interest in moving legislation sponsored by Rep. Michael Grimm, a New York Republican, that would modify the Dodd-Frank whistleblower program.  Rep. Grimm’s bill, H.R. 2483, would make the monetary reward for whistleblowers contingent on the whistleblower reporting the violation to an employer and not just the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

Legislation supported by the AICPA that would reduce the tax burden and compliance requirements related to nonresident state income tax withholding laws was the subject of a hearing by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law earlier this year. The legislation, H.R. 1864, creates a bright line test for when an individual would need to comply with nonresident state income tax liabilities reducing the burden of tracking and compliance currently experienced by many small and large firms. 

Provisions encouraging use of eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) have been introduced in the House and Senate.  The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2011 or “DATA Act,” has been introduced in the House, H.R. 2146, and in the Senate, S.1222.  The Child and Family Services Extension and Enhancement Act, H.R. 2790, has been introduced in the House. These bills each require certain reporting of financial and other information by federal agencies and recipients of federal funds using common data elements and data reporting standards. The AICPA supports these bills because of the improved transparency and efficiencies that would be gained through the use of XBRL.  More information is available about XBRL on the AICPA advocacy website.