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The annual tax policy cycle and current state of play

Nov 16, 2023
Federal tax Business tax Policy Tax policy

The legislative cycle for federal tax policy is a function of political will, competing agendas, and deadlines, both informal and actual. Like many policy matters, it is often unpredictable. So how can you gain clarity amid that uncertainty?

RSM’s understanding of the cycle stems from our experience navigating key dynamics and our engagement with various policy stakeholders on Capitol Hill. Our policy team, which includes professionals with experience serving the IRS and Department of the Treasury, translates legislative developments and gauges the political winds so you can clearly understand how your organization is affected.

This annual timeline highlights milestones in the legislative cycle as they come into view. Find out more details about the latest state of play for each season, or skip ahead to learn what's happening now.

State of now:

Start of the fiscal year for the federal government

Oct. 1, 2023

Legislative deadlines precede the start of the federal government’s fiscal year at the end of the previous year. It is common for appropriations to expire on Sept. 30 and for Congress to require a continuing resolution to remain operational.

General election

Nov. 7, 2023

Election Day in the United States occurs annually on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. Elections to the U.S. House of Representatives are held biennially in even-numbered years. Elections to the Senate occur at the same frequency, but, unlike in the House, only approximately one-third of seats are contested biennially. The next presidential election is in 2024.

Calendar year ends

Dec. 31, 2023

It is common for tax law provisions to expire on the final day of the calendar year. This threat of expiration can compel lawmakers—sometimes in a lame-duck session following the recent general election—to postpone expiration by passing so-called extender bills. Also, in an election year, an impending shift in congressional majorities could either drive legislative activity or delay it, depending on the political dynamics.

Congress begins its annual session

Early January 2024

Congress sits for a two-year term comprised of two sessions that begin each year on Jan. 3 or shortly thereafter. New members who were elected in November take office.

State of the Union address

Winter 2024

The president traditionally addresses a joint session of Congress sometime during the first three months of each calendar year. In discussing the state of the nation, the president often reveals priorities that implicitly or explicitly have tax ramifications, setting the course for lawmakers’ tax policy discussions.

President’s budget request and Treasury Green Book

Late winter or spring 2024

Each spring, the president usually publishes a budget request for the upcoming fiscal year and supplements it with explanations of the revenue proposals. The explanations are published by the U.S. Treasury in the so-called Green Book. The budget request is not legislation but serves as a guidepost for lawmakers’ tax policy discussions.

Congressional August recess

Early August-Early September 2024

Both chambers recess annually from August through Labor Day. When Congress reconvenes, previous unfinished business commonly slips into jeopardy because the attention typically turns to the upcoming budget deadline and general election.

End of the fiscal year for the federal government

Sept. 30, 2024

The last day of the federal government’s fiscal year includes legislative deadlines. It is also common for appropriations to expire on this day.

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