Medical device tax: Congressional duo launches tax reform tour

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.)

Sen Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) address an audience at 3M’s Minnesota headquarters. (from @simpertaxes)

Medical device industry lobbying groups rallied behind Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) as the Congressional duo embarked on a nation-wide tax reform tour, a possible boon to efforts to repeal the medical device tax.

Baucus, who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Camp, chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, launched the tour this week with a stop in Minnesota, where they visited the Maplewood headquarters of 3M Co. (NYSE:MMM).

The bipartisan pair showed up in matching outfits, with navy-blue blazers over blue dress shirts and gray slacks, according to some reports. The duo also has a joint "Max & Dave" Twitter account, @simplertaxes, with more than 50 tweets since May 8.

"We really are a team," Baucus told CM employees during his visit. "We’re just here to listen, to get your thoughts and ideas."

Although the roadshow, dubbed the "Simpler Taxes for America Tour," isn’t focused solely on the medical device tax or healthcare-related issues, Baucus and Camp’s tax reform initiative is a fertile avenue for the medical device industry’s efforts to repeal the levy that took effect at the start of this year.

"MDMA looks forward to working with the Chairmen to reform the tax code, including putting an end to the medical device tax," Medical Device Manufacturers Assn. president & CEO Mark Leahey said in prepared remarks. "Repealing the medical device tax is a great example where there is strong, bipartisan support to end a policy that thwarts innovation and job creation."

Medtech groups have long discussed larger corporate tax reform as an approach to repealing the medical device tax, a 2.3% excise tax on U.S. sales of medical devices. Device makers have attempted to distance their efforts to repeal the medical device tax from issues of healthcare reform, opting instead to frame their concerns as a matter of corporate tax laws, a move that has helped the industry gain vital support from Democrats.

"We believe, candidly, that if we are successful in repositioning the device tax as a jobs and economic growth issue in the context of tax reform, that many more Democrats will view that issue in the same way and join us in the effort to repeal the tax going forward," AdvaMed president & CEO Stephen Ubl said during one of the early tax reform discussions in February 2012.

In newer comments Ubl commended Baucus and Camp for their new tax reform initiative, noting that their 1st visit brought them to a state with more than 35,000 medical device jobs.

"In the context of reforming the tax code to make U.S. business more competitive, repealing the medical device excise tax that went into effect in January is a critical first step to protecting these jobs and ensuring a level playing field for Minnesota and the rest of the U.S. in the global economy," Ubl said in prepared remarks.

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