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Thune: We Can Continue to Strengthen Our Tax Code

“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has been a great success for our economy and for hardworking Americans, but there are still things we can do to strengthen our tax code even further.”

July 25, 2019

Click here or on the picture above to watch Thune’s speech.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, this week discussed how tax reform has benefited the American people and how Congress can continue to build off that success and strengthen the tax code even further. Thune has introduced six tax reform bills this year to help accomplish this goal: the S Corporation Modernization Act, the Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Modernization Act, the NEW GIG Act, the Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act, the CHARITY Act, and the Death Tax Repeal Act


Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):


“Mr. President, last week, Senator Cardin and I introduced our S Corporation Modernization Act.


“That brings the total of tax-reform bills I’ve introduced so far this year to six.


“Mr. President, 2017 was obviously a banner year for tax reform.


“In December of 2017, we passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a historic, comprehensive reform of our tax code that put more money in American families’ pockets and helped spur growth at American businesses.


“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has been a great success for our economy and for hardworking Americans.


“But there are still things we can do to strengthen our tax code even further.


“As I mentioned, last week Senator Cardin and I introduced our S Corporation Modernization Act.


“S corporations are the most common formal business structure in the United States.


“There are nearly 5 million of these businesses throughout the United States, including large numbers in rural America.


“Despite the popularity of S corporations, however, there have been few S corporation-related changes to the tax code since this business structure was created.


“And there are things we can do to make it easier for these businesses to operate and raise capital.


“That’s why Senator Cardin and I developed the S Corporation Modernization Act.


“Our legislation makes pro-growth reforms that will make it easier for these businesses to grow and create new jobs and opportunities in their communities.


“Mr. President, change is a human constant, but with modern technology the pace of change has seemed to accelerate.


“American workers and American businesses face very different situations than they did even a decade ago.


“It’s important that our tax code keeps pace with the 21st century economy.


“In February, I reintroduced my Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act along with Senator Sherrod Brown.


“Today substantial numbers of workers travel to different states for temporary work assignments on a regular basis.


“And they end up subject to a bewildering variety of state laws governing state income tax.


“Senator Brown’s and my legislation would create an across-the-board standard for mobile employees who spend a short period of time working across state lines.


“It would ensure that states receive fair tax payments while substantially simplifying tax requirements for employees and employers.


“In March, I introduced two other bills focused on updating the tax code for the 21st century economy.


“The last decade or so has seen the rise of the “gig economy” – services provided by individuals through apps and websites like Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit, Postmates, Grubhub, and many others.


“These arrangements have stretched the boundaries of current tax law.


“My New Economy Works to Guarantee Independence and Growth Act – or NEW GIG Act – updates our tax law to provide clear guidance on the classification of this new generation of workers.


“It will ensure that Uber drivers, Postmates, Taskers, and others are treated as independent contractors for purposes of tax law if they meet a set of objective criteria.  


“The certainty my bill provides will benefit not only these workers but also traditional independent contractors, like freelance writers and delivery drivers.


“I also introduced the Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act in March with Senator Wyden.


“Our legislation is designed to prevent consumers from being faced with multiple taxes for downloading digital products.


“For example, right now, a digital purchase of a television series could hypothetically be taxed in up to three states, depending on the circumstances of the purchase.


“The Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act would provide “rules of the road” for taxing digital goods and services and ensure that digital purchases could only be taxed in one state – the state in which the consumer resides.


“It would also prohibit states and local governments from taxing digital goods at higher rates than tangible goods.


“In other words, under our bill, that season of The Office you want to buy digitally couldn’t be taxed at a higher rate than if you were purchasing the season on DVD.


“Mr. President, we have a proud history of charitable giving in this country.


“Americans care about a lot of worthy causes and are committed to helping those in need.


“That’s why I’ve routinely introduced amendments to the tax code to make charitable giving easier, several of which have been signed into law.


“This year, I again introduced the Charities Helping Americans Regularly Throughout the Year – or CHARITY – Act with Senator Casey.


“This year’s version of our bill builds on some of the provisions we succeeded in getting passed over the past few years and would continue to help make it easier for Americans to give – and charities to receive – money.


“Finally, Mr. President, this year I once again introduced legislation to repeal the punitive double – or triple – taxation known as the death tax.


“I’ve worked a lot on the death tax issue over the years because of the way it affects family farms and ranches.


“The death tax can make it difficult or impossible to hand on the family farm or ranch to the next generation.


“While we gave farmers and ranchers substantial relief from the death tax in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, that relief is only guaranteed for six and a half more years, which is why I’m committed to passing a permanent death tax repeal.


“Mr. President, I’m proud of the progress we made for American businesses and American families with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.


“And I will continue working on these bills and others to further refine the tax code to spur economic growth and address the realities of the 21st century economy.


“Mr. President, before I close, I’d like to take a couple of minutes to recognize a staffer of mine who will be retiring at the end of this work period.


“Lynn Tjeerdsma first came to work for me in 2007, to help out on the 2008 farm bill.


“After the bill passed, he headed back to the Farm Service Agency at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to serve as assistant deputy administrator for farm programs.


“But I asked him back in 2011 to work with me on the 2012 – which actually ended up being the 2014 – farm bill, and he’s been with me ever since.


“Mr. President, I suppose it’s possible that there’s someone out there who knows the ins and outs of farm policy better than Lynn.


“But I’ve yet to meet that person.


“After working with Lynn in 2007 and 2008, I asked him back for the 2012 farm bill because I wanted the best for South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers.


“And Lynn is the best.


“There’s a reason for that.


“Lynn has an impressive farm policy resume on both the administrative and the legislative side.


“In addition to working for me, he worked for Senator Larry Pressler on the 1990 farm bill, and he has extensive experience in the executive branch.


“He worked for the Farm Service Agency at the Department of Agriculture for years – as a county executive director in Moody County, South Dakota; as a county executive director in Cass County, Nebraska; as a program specialist and later a branch chief; and then, as I mentioned, as assistant deputy administrator for farm programs.


“He also worked for the nonprofit Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.


“But as impressive as his farm policy resume is, that’s not all Lynn has brought to the table.


“Lynn often says, ‘The best ideas for a farm bill come from a farm, not from behind a desk in Washington.’


“And Lynn isn’t just an agriculture policy expert – Lynn is a farmer.


“Not was a farmer – although he farmed a large spread for 15 years before going to work for the Department of Agriculture – but is a farmer.


“Lynn still owns and operates a corn and soybean farm near Platte, South Dakota.


“And so he has a deep insight into the challenges facing farmers and ranchers and how we can meet their needs here in Washington.


“Mr. President, I’ve talked a lot about Lynn’s agriculture expertise. 


“I’ve relied on it for almost a decade.


“And South Dakota farmers and ranchers are better off today because of the knowledge and insight Lynn has brought to the table.


“But I also want to talk about Lynn personally.


“Every one of us here in the Senate wants smart and knowledgeable staffers.


“But in an ideal world, our staffers aren’t just smart and knowledgeable, they also have the kind of character that Lynn displays – dedicated, hardworking, cheerful, generous, humble, unfailingly kind.


“He is the kind of public servant we all aim to be and a gentleman in the very truest sense of the term.


“I’m not the only one who’s going to miss Lynn – every one of my staffers is going to miss him as well.


“He’s been a mentor to many in the office.


“And, perhaps most importantly, he’s been supplying the staff with doughnuts every Friday for years.


“After a tough week, everyone looked forward to Lynn’s Friday morning email letting them know the Krispy Kremes were in the office.  


“The doughnut notification email always included a list of things Lynn was thankful for that week – whether it was the weather or the fact that South Dakota farmers had gotten all their soybeans in the ground.


“Lynn and his wife Mary were generous hosts as well, inviting staffers over for Easter egg hunts and cookouts.


“We’ll miss other distinctly Lynn things too – like his impressive cowboy boot collection or how we had to prevent him from biking home in a torrential downpour.


“Lynn has logged more than 5,000 miles on his bike while working for me, traveling from his home in Alexandria to the Dirksen building.


“And of course, everyone will miss Lynn’s stories – like the one about the day a younger Lynn tried to bring a rattlesnake home in a burlap bag.


“As you can imagine, the snake did not appreciate the accommodations so he got loose, slithering under the driver’s seat. 


“Lynn’s abrupt exit from the vehicle created quite a hazard that day, with the snake as the only occupant of the now driverless vehicle rolling down the gravel roads near his childhood home.


“And Mr. President, when I talk about missing Lynn, I also have to talk about the farmers and ranchers in my state who will miss having him here in Washington.


“More than once, agriculture groups in South Dakota have asked Lynn to keynote their annual banquets. 


“On one occasion, I offered to give the speech, but was told that Lynn was the preferred speaker.


“Mr. President, Lynn will be sorely missed, but he has more than earned his retirement.


“I know how much he is looking forward to spending more time with his wife Mary and with their five children and 10 grandchildren.


“I know he and Mary plan to travel to Hawaii and Alaska, and that it’s a goal of Lynn’s to visit as many national parks as he possibly can.


“I know he will enjoy sitting watching the waves with Mary at their house in Alabama – and, of course, continuing to farm his corn and soybeans in South Dakota.


“Lynn, thank you for your service and your friendship.


“And God bless you in your retirement.”