When the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in 2017, it enacted a temporary reduction in federal taxes on beer, wine and spirits. Now Congress is considering making those tax cuts permanent.
The bipartisan Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act would extend tax cuts that have allowed producers, distributors and other businesses to invest and grow. According to the Beer Institute, the beer industry provides more than 2.2 million American jobs, generating more than $350 billion in economic output. The tax reduction in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was estimated to save the industry $130 million per year. If that reduction becomes permanent, the industry can continue growing operations, hiring workers and creating benefits for communities nationwide.
“As a manufacturer and brewer in the United States, we’re pleased to see the tax break on brewers large and small reintroduced,” said Anheuser-Busch Chief External Affairs Officer Cesar Vargas. “Thank you to the bill’s bipartisan group of sponsors—Senators Wyden and Blunt and Representatives Kind and Kelly—for fighting to continue the first tax break on brewers and beer importers since the repeal of Prohibition. If passed, this legislation will help us redouble our investments in our industry and the communities where we live and work, and ensure our continued ability to thrive.”
Brewers and importers could use the certainty and permanence of these tax savings to develop new products, upgrade equipment and facilities and hire employees. The law would also enable brewers and importers to be more competitive in the marketplace long-term and encourage the creation of new brewery start-ups by lowering the cost of doing business. Tax relief would have a positive impact on manufacturers and employees across the supply chain, from farmers and bottlers to truckers and distributors.
“This legislation would have a critical impact for a wide range of manufacturers across the United States,” said Randolph L. Burns, Vice President of Global Government Affairs at Ohio-based Owens-Illinois (O-I), the world’s largest glass packaging producer with glass plants in 23 countries. “Businesses like ours are critical to the beer, wine, food and spirits industry, and permanently reducing the cost burden would allow us to strengthen production and support jobs.”
“Small businesses like ours rely on smart policies and reasonable costs to grow and succeed,” said John Little, co-owner and Head Distiller of West Virginia-based Smooth Ambler Spirits. “Making these tax cuts permanent would be an important step towards creating an environment that supports entrepreneurs, encourages ingenuity, and promotes local businesses across the country.”
“Manufacturers are involved in every aspect of the beer, wine and spirits industry in communities across the country, and we know how important it is that these businesses have the opportunity to invest and grow,” said National Association of Manufacturers Vice President of Tax and Domestic Economic Policy Chris Netram. “Making this tax relief permanent would support workers and employers nationwide and provide certainty for the men and women who make things in America.”
Hancock Lumber, a 171-year-old lumber company in Casco, Maine, accelerated its plans to grow and invest in its business thanks to tax reform, and its leadership is making sure employees are the first ones to benefit.
“It’s pretty straightforward,” said Hancock Lumber CEO Kevin Hancock. “As a result of tax reform, our cumulative tax rate fell from 38 percent to 28 percent. We’re keeping a dime-on-a-dollar more of our earnings. And we’ve reinvested 100 percent of that back into the business.”
A component of that reinvestment is providing its employees with additional benefits.
“The first priority of the company is, and always has been, the people who work here,” said Hancock. “In the twelve months following tax reform we increased our employees’ wages. We increased our 401k contribution. We increased our annual bonuses, we increased our holiday bonuses, and we picked up 100 percent of the cost of our annual health insurance increases.”
In addition to the immediate benefit to employees, thanks to the strong business climate, the company is planning for continued growth.
“We’ve been able to accelerate our reinvestment plans,” said Hancock. “Tax reform is allowing us to do in three years what might’ve taken us four to five years to do otherwise. That’s pretty significant.”
Because he’s used today’s tax savings to strengthen the company’s position for years to come, Hancock deems this a “significant long-term benefit.”
“Most importantly, this isn’t a one-time boost. Tax reform’s benefits will show up every single year in the future,” said Hancock. “It’s strengthening our future plans as much as our present plans. Simply put, any time a good company is able to keep more of its own money, good things happen.”
“As Congress developed the 2017 tax reform legislation, we made sure the unified voice of manufacturers was heard,” said Chris Netram, Vice President, Tax and Domestic Economic Policy at National Association of Manufacturers. “Now, with the pro-growth tools provided by that legislation, manufacturers across the country are able to invest more, hire more and pay more. Hancock Lumber’s commitment to its people and operations is a great example of what manufacturers small and large across the country are doing: keeping their promise to pay forward the benefits of tax reform.”
BWX Technologies, Inc., a supplier of nuclear components and fuel to the U.S. government, is hiring more than 170 new employees and further expanding its operations across three manufacturing facilities in Ohio and Indiana over the course of the next four years, investing approximately $210 million in these two states as a result of tax reform.
“Due to tax reform, we saw a favorable impact to our tax rate of about 8 to 10 percent,” said Rex Geveden, BWXT’s president and chief executive officer. “This has resulted in significant cash savings that we have used for various needs, including reinvestment of capital into our business and hiring additional employees for future growth.”
BWXT has been manufacturing naval nuclear components and reactors since the 1950s, when it designed and fabricated components for the USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine. Today, the company manufactures naval nuclear reactors for every new submarine and aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy’s fleet. With this new investment, the company expects to fill a variety of different positions including engineers, machinists, quality assurance specialists and frontline supervisors to support the workforce growth.
“Manufacturers are keeping their promise to create jobs and invest right here in the United States,” said NAM Vice President of Tax and Domestic Economic Policy Chris Netram. “Thanks to tax reform, more individuals in Ohio and Indiana will have the opportunity to be a part of a growing industry. Moreover, BWXT’s investment will help it better accomplish its critical job of supporting our United States military, helping not only local communities but our country as a whole.”
BWXT isn’t just hiring workers to fulfill an immediate need. It’s also training young people and aspiring workers to help create a pipeline for BWXT and other employers that need skilled employees now and in the future. Through strategic partnerships with area schools in Ohio (K-12 and post-secondary), company leaders meet with students, parents, career counselors and faculty to discuss manufacturing jobs.
This provides an opportunity to talk about the well-paying careers and generous benefit packages, like education opportunities and tuition reimbursement—and the innovative nature of modern manufacturing. In Indiana, the company is building relationships with five of the area’s local technical schools to help students to learn about the exciting employment opportunities available to them and to provide training that enhances the skills of potential new employees.
“Manufacturers like BWXT aren’t just investing in the jobs of tomorrow—they’re helping young men and women across the country develop the skills they need to build a career in the manufacturing industry well into the future,” said Netram. “Businesses that make things in the United States pushed for tax reform in order to be able to invest in their communities and grow their operations, and BWXT’s announcement is another example of that promise fulfilled.”
Ketchie, a 71-year-old family-owned machine shop based in Concord, N.C., is thriving, thanks to the benefits of tax reform.
Company president Courtney Ketchie Silver is quick to note that tax reform made a transformative impact on its business.
“Because of tax reform, our customers are expanding,” Silver explained. “They’re investing in new equipment, they’re expanding their shopfloors. There’s a general level of confidence, and that’s resulting in increased demand for Ketchie’s products.”
In fact, 2018 turned out to be Ketchie’s best year yet in its seven-decade history. 2018 sales increased a whopping 25 percent year over year.
“Because of this huge demand, Ketchie was able to make a number of capital investments,” Silver said. Overall, Ketchie pumped nearly $500,000 into capital equipment last year, which will help the company continue to meet demand for years to come.
The increased investment led to a hiring boom as well. In 2018, Ketchie expanded its workforce by 20 percent, with all new hiring taking place on the shopfloor rather than in the back office. That sort of single-year growth “has never happened before,” explained Silver. “Employees are excited to see the company grow.”
Existing employees are also benefitting through pay raises and quarterly bonuses. In order to continue to develop their employees, the company has worked with the local community college and has been the recipient of grant funding from the state of North Carolina. Ketchie has also joined the North Carolina Manufacturing Institute to promote manufacturing and help match individuals and employers in the area.
“As we’ve seen for the past year and a half since its enactment, tax reform is giving businesses the ability to reinvest in and expand their operations, and manufacturers are leading the way in this effort,” said Chris Netram, NAM vice president of tax and domestic economic policy, said. “Manufacturers have reported record levels of optimism for nine consecutive quarters in our Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey, and, through increased spending and investment, that optimism is helping fuel our entire economy.”
“It’s such a change from 2008, 2009,” agreed Silver, referring to 2019’s booming economic climate. “For the first time since then, people are confident. And their actions are following that confidence. Overall, I have a positive outlook for the year.”
Manufacturers scored a significant victory with the Treasury Department’s new proposed tax regulations, which would help implement the pro-growth intent of tax reform and save manufacturers from unintended U.S. tax on high-taxed foreign earnings.
Prior to passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the high U.S. corporate tax rate discouraged companies from bringing their foreign earnings back to the United States. Tax reform moved the U.S. toward a territorial system, which allows businesses to bring foreign earnings back to the United States without an additional layer of U.S. tax. To make sure companies still paid some tax, however, the law also created a provision called Global Intangible Low-Taxed Income, essentially imposing a minimum 13.125 percent tax on foreign earnings.
While the move was intended to target low-taxed foreign income, the way the provision interacts with current international tax rules means that some manufacturers can be subject to U.S. tax on foreign earnings that are already taxed above 13.125 percent—effectively removing the upper limit that Congress envisioned and making the backstop largely meaningless. Manufacturers have repeatedly called on Treasury to integrate the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and the existing tax system in a manner that achieves congressional intent.
“While there’s still work to be done, there’s no doubt that Treasury’s proposal is an important step in the right direction,” said NAM Vice President of Tax and Domestic Economic Policy Chris Netram.
“Congress intended to make it easier for manufacturers operating globally to reinvest their foreign earnings in jobs, in equipment and in infrastructure in the U.S.,” said Netram. “The proposed regulations provide much-needed certainty on the reach of this provision.”
This new proposed rule, coming after more than a year of hard-fought advocacy by the NAM, partially alleviates the burden through a high-tax exception companies can opt into. The elective high-tax exception offers companies with high-taxed foreign income the ability to avoid paying additional U.S. tax provided that the foreign tax rate is greater than 18.9 percent.
While higher than the intended 13.125 percent rate, the elective 18.9 percent rate still provides meaningful relief for manufacturers operating around the world, offering additional certainty and a chance to invest in further growth.
“This is an important positive development in moving closer to the intent of Congress and in allowing manufacturers to support their workers, grow their businesses and contribute to the American economy,” said Netram.
Ferroloy, a Kansas-based small business that manufactures ductile and gray iron castings, was once on the verge of bankruptcy. But with the help of tax reform, they have doubled the size of their workforce and are in the process of dramatically expanding their facilities.
Mark Soucie, Ferroloy president and owner, bought the company back in 2017 when it had just 20 employees. The business was struggling to break even due to the collapse of the agricultural market, in which most of their customers were involved. Soucie and his team spent much of 2017 stabilizing Ferroloy. It became quickly evident, however, that the supercharged economy could deliver big gains.
“We could tell in early 2018 that activity was picking up, so we added a second shift and more than doubled our workforce by the end of the year,” Soucie explained.
“Now we are in the early stages of adding over 12,000 square feet to our facilities so that we can de-bottleneck the foundry, increase the size of the company’s machine shop and build an in-house pattern shop, which will allow the company to save money while also adding more jobs to their growing workforce,” Soucie said.
Soucie cited tax reform as a significant driver in allowing Ferroloy’s expansion plans to move faster than they otherwise would. More importantly, tax reform has ushered in the strongest economy in more than a decade, which is impacting Ferroloy by increasing demand for their products.
“To me, tax reform is an opportunity to level the playing field,” Soucie explained. “Large businesses have a significant competitive advantage due to scale and capability relative to smaller businesses. Over 50 percent of our working population is employed in small businesses. If you want small businesses to grow and prosper in this country, we need laws, like tax reform, that can drive economic growth and drive business.”
In Soucie’s eyes, keeping tax reform on the books is a no-brainer.
“I don’t understand why some people in Washington want to roll back something that allows small businesses to compete,” Soucie added. “Maybe it’s me being politically naïve, but economically, tax reform that allows small businesses to compete just makes sense.”
2018 was a record-setting year, as manufacturers reported the highest levels of optimism in the 20-year history of the NAM’s Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey.
“With tools like tax reform and regulatory certainty, manufacturing is thriving – and manufacturers are paying it forward,” Chris Netram, NAM vice president of tax and domestic economic policy, said. “Across the country, manufacturers small and large are hiring new employees, expanding operations, raising wages, improving benefits and more. Tax reform has fueled manufacturing, and the industry is propelling the American economy.”
Miles Fiberglass, a small family-owned Oregon manufacturing company, announced it has been able to increase its business by thirty five percent due to tax reform, resulting in a surge of new hires and investment.
Due to a new provision in the tax law allowing for immediate write-off of new equipment, Miles Fiberglass purchased a new semi-truck and a second mixer to set up room for demand from a new customer, saving money on the new assets in the process.
“This will be a major part of our business,” Miles Fiberglass president Lori Miles-Olund said. “Tax reform helped us secure that customer.”
The company’s business growth prompted leadership to hire roughly a dozen new employees. The company also purchased a new infusion gun, which dramatically reduces emissions in the manufacturing process and enables further growth while creating a cleaner work environment for employees.
“They see the growth thanks to tax reform,” Miles-Olund said. “They see the addition of customers. It puts them at ease that business is good.”
Last year, Miles Fiberglass raised its starting wage by 9 percent thanks to the tax law, bumping everyone up the chart. Growth has continued this year, and the company is already setting up plans to increase production for yet another customer.
“It’s going to be easier for us to get financing for future capital and purchase more equipment,” Miles-Olund said.
“It’s clear that, more than a year after its passage, tax reform continues to provide a boost to the U.S. economy and the U.S. manufacturing industry,” National Association of Manufacturers’ Vice President of Tax and Domestic Economy Policy Chris Netram said. “Rolling back the law would only hurt manufacturers like Miles Fiberglass, and we’re seeing that concern reflected in our latest survey.”
While some politicians in Washington and presidential candidates across the country are openly discussing rolling back key parts of the historic tax reform bill signed into law back in 2017, the National Association of Manufacturers’ latest survey data paints an alarming picture of the impact such a move would have on the U.S. economy and the manufacturing industry in particular.
According to the NAM’s Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey from first quarter of 2019, two thirds (66 percent) of manufacturers would be forced to consider cutting back investments in the United States if Congress rolled back portions of the tax reform bill, while 62 percent would scale back projected growth in wages and bonuses. Meanwhile, more than half (54 percent) would cut back on hiring.
“These are scary numbers,” Chris Netram, NAM’s Vice President of Tax and Domestic Economic Policy, said.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act took the U.S. tax code from one of the least competitive among advanced economies to “just about average,” Netram said. “Backsliding to uncompetitive rates and policies tells companies that operate in a global supply chain that the U.S. is not open for business. It will force them to look elsewhere.”
“Long term, the global economy will still continue to grow,” Netram said. “But the United States won’t capture as much of it.”
Because taxes are a fixed cost in any investment, raising taxes drives the required rate of return on any investment even higher, raising the threshold for what would make an investment profitable and changing the calculus for businesses planning future investments in equipment and employees.
Small manufacturers have benefited from tax reform’s provision allowing for a 20 percent deduction of “pass-through” small business income. While much of the discussion in Washington has focused on the corporate tax rate, far more manufacturers file as pass-through businesses, meaning smaller firms would bear the brunt of a full tax reform repeal.
“The number of pass-throughs dwarfs the number of corporate filers,” Netram said. “If you were looking to harm small manufacturers, reducing or repealing the pass through deduction is how you’d do it. That’s one thing that’s so alarming about what some leaders are talking about in Washington.”
The NAM has conducted its quarterly Outlook Survey since 1997. Last year’s aggregated results found the most optimistic reading among U.S. manufacturers in the survey’s history, with respondents crediting the tax reform bill as a major factor. A similar survey from 2018 found huge majorities were planning to increase investments, hiring and wages due to the tax law. Meanwhile, job growth in the industry in 2018 was the fastest in more than twenty years.
“Adopting a more competitive tax system has boosted the industry,” Netram said. “Rolling back the benefits of tax reform would make it more difficult to further grow our thriving American manufacturing sector.”
Maryland’s Marlin Steel Wire Products has long been a leader in its industry—and, because of tax reform, it plans to bring new jobs to its Baltimore facility and invest in the latest technology that will keep it ahead of the competition.“From the moment tax reform was announced, Marlin Steel decided we’re all in,” said Marlin Steel President and Owner Drew Greenblatt. “We knew the economy would crank up and that there would be optimism—but it was like a gun shot off.”
First on the docket? Investing in the latest technology, to increase efficiency and help Marlin Steel meet skyrocketing demand for its products.
“We’ve reconfigured our factory and bought six robots from Arkansas, Ohio and Minnesota,” said Greenblatt. “We largely buy products that are made in America—American robots, American steel.”
Marlin Steel’s new technology includes a 121-ton stamping press from Ohio, which was delivered in July, as well as a robotic threader from Chicago, which was delivered at the end of August.
“Every order for new technology went out because I trusted that House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump would come through on their tax reform promises,” Greenblatt added. “And they did.”
In fact, Marlin Steel invested in so much new technology that it had to bring in a utility company to run new wires throughout its facility—adding seven and a half times the maximum power so it could handle the latest equipment.
Adding new equipment to deal with rising demand also means hiring new employees. Marlin Steel plans to increase dramatically the size of its staff by more than 20 percent. Many of these employees are formerly unemployed steelworkers from Baltimore—and Greenblatt takes special pride in helping them reenter the workforce.
“We’re helping bring people in Baltimore back into the middle class,” he said. “That’s what this is all about. We’re giving our employees the extraordinary tools they need to run circles around other countries, to make them more productive than workers in other countries.”
Already, Marlin Steel’s investment in productivity is helping bring business back from overseas. Greenblatt explained that a big customer recently closed a factory in India and moved those 15 product lines to Marlin Steel’s Baltimore facility—specifically because of Marlin Steel’s superior efficiency and quality.
“Suddenly, the U.S. is competitive again,” said Greenblatt. “We’re so enthusiastic about the future opportunities we have, thanks to tax reform.”
Huntington Ingalls Industries—the largest military shipbuilder in the United States—is planning a “generational” investment in its business and its employees, thanks to tax reform.“When tax reform came around, we knew we wanted to reinvest in our business,” explained Bill Ermatinger, executive vice president and chief human resources officer at Huntington Ingalls. “We put it on a whiteboard to see who our stakeholders were, and we came up with four: employees, customers, communities and shareholders.”
Huntington Ingalls set out to do just that. First on the agenda? Rewarding its nearly 40,000 employees in shipyards across the country.
“We decided our employees would benefit most from an immediate cash bonus,” said Ermatinger. “Every single employee received $500. That’s a lot of money. We got hugely positive feedback from our employees. One of our hourly employees at our Pascagoula, Mississippi, shipyard said, ‘I’ve been hearing about ‘trickle-down economics’ for years. And finally, something trickled down!’”
Huntington Ingalls also made a significant incremental contribution to its pension fund—adding $200 million—as a way of providing for its employees’ futures. While many pension funds across the nation face insolvency, Huntington Ingalls is well funded.
“We built upon what we’ve already been doing,” said Ermatinger. “We invest $100 million in workforce development and $40 million in educational reimbursement each year so we can invest in our employees.” Our employees and our customers will also benefit from what Huntington Ingalls dubbed a “generational capital infusement” in its facilities.
Before tax reform, the shipbuilder had planned to increase capital spending by $1.5 billion by 2020. But now, the company has upped that number by a whopping $300 million—to $1.8 billion. That means more jobs being created—and it will also help U.S. taxpayers, because savings will be passed along to Huntington Ingalls’ client: the U.S. Navy.
Huntington Ingalls also plans to increase dramatically the amount of money it spends in its communities. In fact, because of tax reform, the company has tripled its corporate giving.
“We decided we needed to make an investment in the communities we live in,” said Ermatinger. “Even for the people who don’t work for us.”
“Whether it be United Way, the Boys and Girls Club, the food bank, the Red Cross—you name it,” said Ermatinger. “If Huntington Ingalls is in the community, they saw a benefit.”
Huntington Ingalls’ significant investments in workers, facilities and communities comes as a direct result of tax reform.
“Because of tax reform, we’re able to do a heck of a lot more than we thought we would,” said Ermatinger. “I can assure you: without tax reform, most of these things would not have been possible.”
“I am always asked: Are you going to make these kind of huge investments every year? And my answer is, we don’t know what the future holds, but we already have made these commitments that far exceed HII’s tax-reform benefits beyond one year.”