Washington Report: Taxing Times in Congress and a Win on Asset Forfeiture Relief

June 1, 2000

Full tax plate ahead

Taxing times are here as Congress weighs proposals that would benefit, and some that could hurt, the real estate industry.

House lawmakers are expected to take action by this summer on NAR-supported bills that would repeal estate taxes, create tax-advantaged districts in depressed areas, and expand the availability of individual retirement accounts.

The House hasn’t been looking at just small-scale tax changes.

In early April the Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on H.R. 2525, a “fair tax” bill that would make sweeping reform by replacing the current income tax with a national sales tax. The bill would include a 30 percent tax on new-home sales and on practitioners’ commissions for both new- and existing-home sales.

Although NAR hasn’t taken a formal position on H.R. 2525, the association rejects any proposition that the purchase of a home should trigger a tax. Testifying at the hearing, Scott Rooth, NAR’s Public Policy Coordinating Committee chair, told lawmakers they should be cautious about undertaking such a drastic reform. “Tread carefully when making decisions about the taxation of homes and other real estate,” he said.

Victory on asset forfeiture relief

President Clinton last week signed a bill to give relief to owners whose property has been used for illegal activity without their knowledge.

The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act (H.R. 1658) creates an innocent owner defense and places the burden on the government to prove that the owner knew about the illegal activity.

The president’s signature caps a major effort by NAR over the past year to get the relief enacted into law.

“We applaud the new law for protecting the property rights of owners without compromising the ability of law enforcement officials to pursue criminal investigations,” says NAR President Dennis R. Cronk.

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