Major changes ahead as Congress takes on the highway trust fund crisis — and looks to comprehensive tax reform

By Evan M Migdail

Over the next two weeks, as Congress prepares for its long summer recess, major decisions will be made affecting the legislative tax agenda for the rest of this session of Congress and, in the case of tax reform, for 2015.

The most important near-term issue is the highway trust fund (HTF), which supports highway and related infrastructure construction and maintenance and which, absent a new infusion of cash, will run dry by mid-August, halting thousands of projects throughout the US just months before the Congressional elections. The House of Representatives and the Senate are expected this week to adopt legislation reported last week by their respective tax-writing committees, extending the HTF through March 2015 and to resolve differences in their respective approaches by the end of the month.

Traditionally, the HTF has been supported by taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel, but the current rates of tax on these sources are no longer sufficient to support the fund and, given a reluctance to raise fuel taxes in an election year, the tax writers have been forced to look elsewhere…

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