NEW YORK – A lively and informative panel discussion and Q&A was hosted by the Hellenic American Association for Professionals in Finance (HABA), the Cyprus-U.S. Chamber of Commerce (CUSCC), the Hellenic Medical Society of New York (HMSNY), and the Hellenic Lawyers Association (HLA) on US Tax Reform: What it Means for the US, World, and You, on February 15. The event was held at Wells Fargo Connections in Midtown Manhattan. The panel of experts- Carter Vinson- International Tax Principal, Financial Services Office (FSO), Ernst & Young LLP; Allyson Milbrod- Tax Director, EisnerAmper LLP; and Steven Lando- Tax Partner, Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP, discussed the changes and the implications for 2018 for business, markets, and individuals. The discussion was moderated by Eleni Lagos- Tax Partner, EisnerAmper LLP. The event also included a wine and hors d’oeuvres reception.
Costas Kellas, member of the HABA Board of Directors, gave the welcoming remarks, and introduced the leaders and representatives of each organization, Fanny Trataros- HABA President, Nicolas Nicolaou- CUSCC President, Dr. George Liakeas- HMSNY President, and George Zapantis- HLA Treasurer.
HMSNY President Dr. George Liakeas thanked everyone for attending and noted that this was another joint event organized by the Hellenic professionals, and especially thanked HABA since he had heard someone made $15,000 after the HABA event on Bitcoin. He also encouraged everyone to help promote the professional organizations to their friends and colleagues and looked forward to more co-organized events among the groups.
HABA President Franny Trataros also thanked everyone and noted that the co-sponsored events are a great opportunity for networking and learning.
Moderator Eleni Lagos thanked everyone in attendance and noted that they would try to make the presentation as enjoyable as possible, understandable and geared to the audience present, though taxes is a “heavy topic.” She noted that there are over 500 pages of legislation something she is seeing for the first in her career, and “it would have been great if it came after Christmas, but it came on December 22 and so we’ve all been scrambling and trying to get to the bottom of these changes.”
Lagos then introduced the panelists and each gave a presentation, beginning with Carter Vinson noted that “the tax cuts and job act of 2017 is the most, single important US tax development since the tax reform of 1986, it just fundamentally changes so many things, the problem with it was that there was a group in American politics that felt a compelling need to pass something now to be able to justify why they might be re-elected this year, and so the legislation went through a bit more quickly than the tax reform of 1986 went through and the result of that is that many of the provisions in the new law didn’t have the opportunity to be finely tuned to make sure they are in conformity with what already was the law or that they even made sense. So, Congress realizing that they were doing it in a rush… gave a very broad grant of authority to the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service to interpret the rules so as to meet the congressional intent of how the rules were supposed to help taxpayers.”
Lagos pointed out that “until technical corrections are issued, the law as written stands. There are conflicts within it, there are ambiguities, but the law as written stands until a change is made.”
Allyson Milbrod noted the differences in how much tax will be paid from last year to this year using slides to highlight the comparison and pointed out how the rates are going down. Among the changes she pointed out were that fewer people will be paying the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax), and the standard deduction has increased, so people who itemized their deductions in the past will probably take the standard deduction. The personal exemption has been repealed, Milbrod added, but the child tax credit has increased to “$2,000 per child and it starts to phase out married, filing joint, over $400,000.”
Steven Lando said of the tax reform, “this thing was basically written in a month, you’ve got a new statute over 500 pages, you’ve got a joint committee report that’s 550 pages which alos contains errors, we’re going to have to wait quite some time for regulations, notices, and clarification, the good news is the IRS announced yesterday that due to this change in law they’re going to be able to remove 298 sections of regs, which because of Trump’s original fire sale 2 for 1 order, remember if you put in one you have to remove two, allows the IRS to put in 149 new regulations with regard to the act.”
Also in attendance at the event, Aristos Constantine- Trade Commissioner of Cyprus, who spoke about the international effects of US tax reform. He said, “Multinationals, we think, will start reconsidering their structures, coming from Cyprus, we would argue that, with a 12.5% tax rate, it makes sense to be structured in Cyprus directly… if you combine the US tax reform with the repercussions of Brexit… we think Cyprus, in particular, is poised to significantly increase its appeal in the US market.”
Mr. Constantine noted that, “the implications [of US tax reform] are more far-reaching than just domestically in the United States, I think it’s going to change a lot of things in the way business is done worldwide.”
Also present at the event were Georgios Michailidis- Head of the Greek Trade Office at the Consulate General of Greece in New York, Emmanuel Caravanos- HABA Treasurer, Nick Lionas- member of the HABA Board of Directors, Sophia Prountzos- HABA Secretary, Taso Pardalis- HLA Board of Directors, Constantine Sirigos- journalist, and many members of the organizations and the community.