Senate Carbon Capture Bill Gains a House Companion

Earlier this month, we described Senate Bill 1763, which would authorize a new type of exempt facility bond to be issued for “qualified carbon capture facilities.” Well, on July 19, 2019, freshman House Republican Tim Burchett of Tennessee proposed the Carbon Capture Improvement Act, H.R. 3861, the text of which is identical to the Senate Bill.[1]  However, unlike the Senate Bill that has bipartisan sponsorship, Burchett is (for now) the sole sponsor of the companion House Bill.

This isn’t the only carbon capture-related bill with both Senate and House support. The Senate has already passed the Utilizing Significant Emissions with Innovated Technologies Act, nicknamed the “USE IT Act.”  The USE IT Act supports the development of carbon capture technology through the establishment of: technology prizes, research and development programs to promote existing and new technologies for the transformation of carbon dioxide generated by industrial processes, a carbon capture, utilization and sequestration report, permitting guidance, and regional permitting task force, among other things, research into carbon dioxide utilization and direct air capture, to facilitate the permitting and development of carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration projects and carbon dioxide pipelines. The USE IT Act similarly has a House counterpart, H.R. 1166, which has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife. With carbon capture technology on Congress’ mind, and companion bills for tax-exempt bonds for carbon capture facilities pending in the House and Senate, the chances for a legislative change seem to be growing stronger.

[1] If you’re one of those people needs to see it to believe it, click here to see a blackline of the House Bill against the Senate Bill.

SLGs Window to Reopen! And Another Change.

Treasury has announced that, after what seemed like a forever long hiatus, effective August 5, 2019, at 12:00 noon eastern, it will reopen the SLGs windowTreasury can reopen the SLGS window because of the enactment of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019, which suspends the application of the federal debt ceiling until July 31, 2021.

But as usual, Congress giveth, and it also taketh away.  Although the sequestration of federal subsidy payments on direct pay obligations, such as Build America Bonds, was supposed to end on September 30, 2027, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 extends it by another two years until September 30, 2029.

As a reminder, the sequestration rate changes each federal fiscal year. Since sequestration began in 2013, the sequestration reduction rate that applies to subsidy payments on direct pay bonds has followed a more or less downward trajectory. It started at 8.7% for the federal fiscal year ending in 2013, but for issuers requesting subsidies for direct pay obligations during the federal FYE 9/30/2020, the sequestration rate is 5.9 percent.


A Lesson Plan in Linguistics and Statistics for Well-Endowed Private Universities

Contrary to its name, The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act resulted in a tax increase for certain entities. For example, certain well-endowed private universities and colleges are now subject to a 1.4% excise tax on their net investment income. This tax increase is set forth in Section 4968 of the Internal Revenue Code, and it generally applies to private universities that at the end of their prior taxable year (a) had at least 500 full-time, tuition paying students, and (b) whose endowment (i.e., assets not used for the university’s exempt purposes) had a fair market value that equaled at least $500,000 per student of the university. In addition, Section 4968 only applies if more than 50% of the tuition-paying students at the private university are located in the United States. Since Section 4968 is a brand-new statute, private universities had many unanswered questions regarding which universities are subject to the new excise tax and how to calculate it. Accordingly, the Treasury Department recently released proposed regulations that provide some guidance on these matters. Continue Reading

Carbon Capture Legislation – Potential for a New Type of Exempt Facility Bond

On June 10, 2019, Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced Senate Bill 1763 (the “Carbon Capture Bill”), which, if passed, would allow the issuance of exempt facility bonds for “qualified carbon dioxide capture facilities.”  The Carbon Capture Bill has bipartisan support as this bill encourages continued use of carbon-generating natural resources by providing a new tax-exempt financing option for capital expenditures related to a green countermeasure – carbon capture and sequestration. If this sounds like Groundhog Day, that is because it is – this bill was also proposed in 2017. During its last time at bat, the bill was up for consideration while tax-exempt private activity bonds were also on the chopping block – so it was highly unlikely that it was going to pass. Now, with infrastructure and climate change on Congress’ mind, the Carbon Capture Bill seems like it might be a viable candidate.  For more on how this would work, read on.

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IRS Notice 2019-39: Corrected!

On May 22, 2019, the IRS issued IRS Notice 2019-39  (the “Original Notice”), which sought to bring efficiency and uniformity to guidance on the current refunding of certain bonds issued under current and future “targeted” tax-exempt bond programs. While the Original Notice set forth helpful guidance on the tax-exempt current refunding of bonds issued under a targeted bond program, it also created some confusion regarding the tax-exempt current refunding of build America bonds (which everyone was already doing), as Mike and Cindy noted last week.

The Original Notice included build America bonds within the scope of its guidance, which seemed odd because build America bonds were not subject to volume cap, although similar to the targeted bond programs, there was a deadline for issuing build America bonds on December 31, 2010. Additionally, because build America bonds already were required to satisfy the requirements for issuance of tax-exempt bonds, no ambiguity existed regarding the ability to currently refund build America bonds with tax-exempt bonds. This guidance seemed unnecessary and, if read in a certain light, could have led to absurd results.

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IRS Notice 2019-39: Perpetuating the Gift of Targeted Bond Programs, but Creating Confusion about the Tax-Exempt Current Refunding of Build America Bonds

To promote the provision of disaster relief and the development (or redevelopment) of economically distressed areas, Congress will at times enact targeted bond programs that authorize the issuance of specialized tax-exempt bonds.  Tax-exempt targeted bond programs frequently contain both a cap on the amount of tax-exempt bonds that can be issued under the program and an expiration date.  For example, in response to Hurricane Katrina, Congress permitted the issuance of tax-exempt Gulf Opportunity Zone Bonds, which were subject to an aggregate volume cap of about $14.8 billion and which had to be issued before January 1, 2012.

Where a tax-exempt targeted bond program features volume cap limitations or issuance deadlines (or both) and is silent about whether bonds issued under the program can be currently refunded on a tax-exempt basis, uncertainty might exist as to whether program bonds can be currently refunded by tax-exempt bonds issued after the expiration of the program and, if such refunding bonds can be issued, whether they require additional volume cap.  The IRS has previously rendered guidance on specific targeted bond programs to address these questions.  To achieve efficiency and uniformity in this guidance for existing and future tax-exempt targeted bond programs that are silent regarding refunding matters, the IRS yesterday released Notice 2019-39.  This Notice sets forth helpful guidance on the tax-exempt current refunding of bonds issued under a targeted bond program, but it also creates unwarranted confusion regarding the tax-exempt current refunding of Build America Bonds.  For more on both of these aspects of the Notice, read on.

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IRS Releases Helpful Private Letter Ruling for Calculating the Weighted Average Economic Life of Bond-Financed Property (but Mind the Footnote)

On May 3, 2019, the Internal Revenue Service released Private Letter Ruling 201918008.  The IRS concluded


in that PLR that an issuer of exempt facility bonds used a reasonable method, under all the facts and circumstances, to determine whether the term of an operating agreement entered into with a private party exceeded 80% of the weighted average economic life of the bond-financed assets that are subject to that agreement.  This PLR could have utility for certain exempt facility bonds and beyond.[1]   For more detail, read on.

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IRS Releases Even More Guidance to Facilitate Opportunity Zone Program

The Opportunity Zone program was created by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (which we have previously written about here, here and here), to allow investors the “opportunity” to defer paying tax on gains from selling property by investing the proceeds from the sale into an Opportunity Zone Fund.

The IRS issued a first round of proposed regulations on October 19, 2018. The IRS has now issued a second, far lengthier, round of proposed regulations, which provide much needed additional guidance. These proposed regulations both describe and clarify the provisions of Code Section 1400Z-2, while also updating by partially withdrawing the previously proposed regulations.

These days, your inbox surely is besieged by superficial coverage of the Opportunity Zone program by various folks looking to drum up business. Care for a contrast?

Our colleague, Steve Mount, has been continuously following the Opportunity Zone program. He has written an analysis of these new regulations in Bloomberg’s Tax Management Real Estate Journal. Click here to read the article. Steve’s earlier studies of the program, which provide the insights behind these rules, can be read here, here and here.

Treasury will accept comments on the new set of proposed regulations until June 14, 2019 and topics will be discussed at a public hearing on the new proposed regs, which is scheduled for July 9, 2019 at 10 a.m.

IRS Allows Multifamily Housing Bonds to Finance Projects with Group Preferences

On April 3, 2019, the IRS published Rev. Proc. 2019-17, which provides that multifamily housing projects (or, for those of you who prefer Grey Poupon, “qualified residential rental projects”) won’t violate the general public use requirement even if the landlord offers units of the project to certain specific groups. Congress had made this point clear for low-income housing tax credits (“LIHTC”), which are often used in connection with tax-exempt multifamily housing bonds. Multifamily housing bonds have their own, separate general public use requirement, and there wasn’t a similar provision allowing group preferences in those rules. This disconnect had stopped many of these deals cold. Rev. Proc. 2019-17 puts the two sets of rules in sync.

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Revenue Procedure 2019-17 – The IRS Issues Helpful Guidance on Qualified Residential Rental Projects

On April 3, 2019, the Internal Revenue Service issued Rev. Proc. 2019-17, which provides that a qualified residential rental project will not fail the public use element of Internal Revenue Code Section 142(d), and therefore can be financed with exempt facility bonds (assuming, of course, that other requirements are satisfied[1]), if the project contains units that are reserved for, or are prioritized for, certain, specified groups (such as veterans).

We will soon post an analysis of this very helpful guidance.


[1] Like pretty much everything else life, when it comes to tax-exempt bonds, there are always “other requirements.”