News Article

Bicameral unity on Taiwan tax bill ahead of House markup
November 29, 2023


By: Laura Weiss

Key lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol have agreed to a package to extend tax treaty-like benefits for U.S. companies operating in Taiwan and vice versa, boosting the likelihood of the widely backed bill passing before year’s end.

The top Senate Finance and Foreign Relations panel members said in a statement Wednesday that they’re all endorsing Taiwan tax legislation (HR 5988) that would combine both committees’ bills, resolving a jurisdictional snag on what is otherwise a strongly bipartisan project.

The House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled Thursday to mark up that amended bill, which upon approval would tee it up for a floor vote in that chamber.

Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; ranking member Michael D. Crapo, R-Idaho; Foreign Relations Chairman Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md.; and ranking member Jim Risch, R-Idaho, said in a statement that the combined bill has strong bipartisan, bicameral support and that they look forward to its swift enactment.

“Our legislation provides expedited double-tax relief through the tax code and paves the way for future agreements between the United States and Taiwan on additional, comprehensive double-tax relief,” the senators said, noting Taiwan is a top U.S. trading partner but the only one that faces double taxation issues.

Due to Taiwan’s unusual political status, the Biden administration can’t negotiate a tax treaty like the U.S. has with other allies and trading partners. But lawmakers sought a fix this year, aiming to boost the Taiwan relationship amid heightened tensions with China and to unlock more microchip investments from major manufacturers, like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd.

The Senate Finance Committee proposed direct amendments to the tax code that would reduce double taxation on earnings for Taiwanese businesses and investors operating in the U.S., as long as the same treatment is extended to U.S. firms in Taiwan.

The Senate tax-writing committee viewed direct tax code changes as necessary absent a formal treaty, but Foreign Relations proposed its own bill to create a formal treaty-like process. It would authorize the administration to negotiate a tax agreement with Taiwan and require approval legislation from Congress before it’s in force.

Ways and Means will mark up the bill, which was jointly written with Senate Finance, with a substitute amendment to add provisions from the Foreign Relations bill (S 1457).

Finance and Foreign Relations’ leaders will look for quick passage of the widely supported measure now that they’ve resolved their differences, according to an aide.

Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo., said Wednesday he spoke to Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., earlier this week about moving the Taiwan bill.

“It can pass fairly quickly,” Smith said. “I hope to get it on the floor and out of our chamber as soon as possible, but of course that’s up to the majority leader.”

Enacting the bill by the end of the year is attractive because aiding Taiwan and boosting microchip investments are priorities on both sides of the aisle — and because it would finalize the issue before a new Taiwanese president takes office. Taiwan’s presidential election is in January 2024, with multiple candidates vying to become its next leader.

The Taiwan package could also become a legislative vehicle or a motivator for a broader, bipartisan year-end tax deal. Tax writers are negotiating to revive business tax incentives for activities like research and development, a goal of both parties that Republicans have prioritized, and to expand the child tax credit, a demand of Democrats.

But how to pass that potential deal is a major open question. Tax bills are typically too difficult to pass on their own and are generally tucked into a larger, must-pass package.

While some sources tracking talks believe lawmakers are motivated enough to pass the Taiwan bill that it could become a home for other tax provisions, it would still be a trickier path — but options are limited with no government funding deadline before year’s end.