Hamilton Place Strategies, a public affairs consulting firm, analyzed transcripts of earnings calls by publicly traded U.S. companies over the last three quarters. They found that tax reform was the policy issue companies discussed most on those calls with Wall Street analysts — but that mentions of the subject dropped by 38 percent from the fourth quarter of 2016 to the second quarter of 2017. Overall, the percentage of earnings calls mentioning government or policy issues fell from 41 percent to 16 percent. Health-care reform saw the largest increase.
Does this mean that businesses have given up on tax reform this year? Perhaps. More likely, it's simply the result of a lack of action on the tax overhaul. Hamilton Place notes that mentions of tax policy peaked in February just after the Senate Finance Committee advanced Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's nomination and have spiked after other tax-related announcements. So mentions of tax reform on earnings calls could surge again the fall.
One other note about what businesses have been discussing: Calls mentioning President Trump fell by 84 percent from January to late August.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the tax cuts and economic environment are prompting U.S. companies to go on a buying binge: “Mergers and acquisitions announced by U.S. acquirers so far in 2018 are running at the highest dollar volume since the first two months of 2000, according to Dealogic. Thomson Reuters, which publishes slightly different numbers, puts it at the highest since the start of 2007.”
Health care spending in the U.S. will grow at an average annual rate of 5.5 percent from 2017 through 2026, according to new estimates published in Health Affairs by the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
The projections mean that health care spending would rise as a share of the economy from 17.9 percent in 2016 to 19.7 percent in 2026.
Margot Sanger-Katz and Jim Tankersley in The New York Times: “The deal struck by Democrats and Republicans on Monday to end a brief government shutdown contains $31 billion in tax cuts, including a temporary delay in implementing three health care-related taxes.”
“Those delays, which enjoy varying degrees of bipartisan support, are not offset by any spending cuts or tax increases, and thus will add to a federal budget deficit that is already projected to increase rapidly as last year’s mammoth new tax law takes effect.”
Congress passed a law in 2015 requiring the IRS to use private debt collection agencies to pursue “inactive tax receivables,” but the financial results are not encouraging so far, according to a new taxpayer advocate report out Wednesday.
In fiscal year 2017, the IRS received $6.7 million from taxpayers whose debts were assigned to private collection agencies, but the agencies were paid $20 million – “three times the amount collected,” the report helpfully points out.