Stevens: Tax Reform Battle Looms on Capitol Hill

SAN DIEGO–Mortgage Bankers Association President and CEO David Stevens, CMB, said of all the potential changes from Capitol Hill this year, none could have a more dramatic effect than tax reform legislation.

“I know many of you remember the 1986 tax reform,” Stevens said here this week at the MBA Commercial Real Estate Finance/Multifamily Housing Convention & Expo. “Until then, no tax legislation had changed the landscape so broadly and so deeply. Thirty years later, we find ourselves on the cusp of monumental tax reform proposals. And if you thought 1986 was a big deal, I suggest you brace yourselves for possibly greater impact.”

StevensDavidStevens made his first public appearance this week since surgery for a nonlife-threatening cancer diagnosis. He expressed gratitude for the support he received during that period.

“I was grateful for the unity and support of my family, friends and colleagues,” Stevens said. “I’m sure many of you have experienced these same life- altering events. You know how important that unity, solidarity and support can be.”

Stevens noted that under current proposals and discussions in the House and Senate, any number of housing-related tax proposals, such as the 1031 property exchange, depreciation and deductibility of business interests could come into play.

“As an industry, we are about to undergo one of the most profound changes we’ve seen in decades,” Stevens said. Nothing will have a greater impact on your businesses than tax reform.”

Stevens said various tax reform proposals could lead to industry uncertainty as to their potential impact. “You have so many interrelated components, that one minor change could offset five others,” he said. “Will Congress and the new administration realize the ripple effect one change could have?”

While some observers advocate taking a wait-and-see attitude, Stevens said MBA will move ahead, citing its philosophy of shaping policy, versus reacting to policy.

“It will take all of us, with a unified vision and voice, to shape tax reform legislation,” Stevens said. “But it’s also much bigger than just one issue. With a town so divided, with an atmosphere so unclear, decisions affect everyone in this room–your capital, your profits, your role in a very complex mortgage banking market. It will take all of us to ensure the effective flow of capital while maintaining the right regulatory balance.”

What’s made MBA the most powerful trade group in mortgage banking is its unified voice,” Stevens said. “What makes us strong–we represent all: commercial, residential, multifamily; those who depend on government guarantees and those that deploy private capital. We’re not viewed as a special interest because of the breadth and depth of the industry we represent.”

When the new Administration has questions, Stevens said, “they call us. When Congressional leaders want to know the impact of legislation, they call us. You need the ability to conduct business the best way possible. Our impact in Washington helps you do this.”