Trump pushes to bring back entertainment tax deductions amid coronavirus
President Trump meets with tourism industry leaders to discuss coronavirus response.
Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox. Sign up here.
President Trump on Wednesday intensified his calls to bring back tax deductions for businesses providing entertainment for customers, associates and employees as a way to help hard-hit businesses recover from the economic slowdown tied to the coronavirus.
The president previously mentioned that he was considering the move in his Sunday coronavirus task force briefing, saying that he thinks "it'll have a tremendous impact," but on Wednesday he mentioned the possibility that Congress could pass legislation to address the issue.
"Congress must pass the old, and very strongly proven, deductibility by businesses on restaurants and entertainment," Trump said. "This will bring restaurants, and everything related, back — and stronger than ever. Move quickly, they will all be saved."
The 2017 tax law removed deductions for entertainment provided by companies to their business associates but left in place deductions for meals. The rules, however, left some ambiguity between what counted as a meal and what counted as entertainment, potentially dinging the restaurant industry in the process.
On Sunday the president said his administration was looking for a way to restore the tax deductions for businesses, but seemed to be searching for an administrative solution rather than a legislative one — an unlikely prospect given the deductions were codified by an act Congress passed and Trump signed.
"I'm going to tell [Treasury] Secretary [Steven] Mnuchin ... to immediately start looking into the reinstalling of deductibility of meals and entertainment costs for corporations that set the restaurant business back a lot when it was done originally and then done not so long ago," the president said.
He continued: "We have to get these restaurants back in. We have to get our businesses open. We have to get the planes flying. We have to get everything going. ... We had the greatest economy in the history of the world. Three, three weeks ago. And now we've said please don't work anymore. We're actually paying people not to work. Nobody's ever heard that. That's not for us."
Trump has made clear that he wants to restart the U.S. economy as soon as possible, but with grim projections of between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths from the coronavirus coming from his own administration, he extended the White House's social distancing guidelines Sunday as state governments continued to issue more stay-at-home orders and crack down on out-of-state travelers.
Reinstating tax deductions for businesses could be a way to boost restaurants and entertainment venues, which are among the hardest-hit businesses during the coronavirus pandemic after the social distancing guidelines are relaxed.
An IRS guidance issued on the changes in how businesses could deduct their meals and entertainment expenses said that the law "eliminated the deduction for any expenses related to activities generally considered entertainment, amusement or recreation."
Additionally, the guidance states that "[t]axpayers may continue to deduct 50 percent of the cost of business meals if the taxpayer (or an employee of the taxpayer) is present and the food or beverages are not considered lavish or extravagant."