Life Science Compliance Update

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November 28, 2017

McCaskill Files Amendment to Eliminate Marketing Tax Deduction


Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri recently filed an amendment to the tax bill to eliminate the deduction for pharmaceutical marketing. While the likelihood of a Democrat-proposed amendment to a Republican-controlled bill passing is slim, it is still important to understand the action McCaskill has taken.

Simply because the bill is controlled by the Republicans, the Republican majority in the Senate is thin, meaning bipartisan support is likely needed in order for any tax reform to be done. It is likely that McCaskill introduced this amendment to raise the profile of the issue and to see if there is any bipartisan support for the issue. John McCain has shown interest in “punishing” the pharmaceutical industry for high prescription prices.

Neither the House nor Senate versions of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 contain the oft-proposed reduction of the deductibility of all marketing costs for client expenses. This general provision circulated for months in the drafting stage and has been the subject of significant lobbying by the Coalition for Healthcare Communication and others. However, the pharma-only provision has been circulating for a while – since the debates on the Affordable Care Act.

The McCaskill provision is a double threat in the Senate because it offers a bipartisan way to ding the unpopular pharma industry and would raise money to help pay for other popular deductions. When last “scored” by budget officials, the pharma-only change raised an estimated $10 billion over 10 years. To raise that amount, the change would need to apply to all pharmaceutical marketing, including detailing and provision of samples.

McCaskill has been known to be less-than-friendly to the pharmaceutical industry through her ideas, talking points, and legislative proposals. This proposed amendment is the most recent action she has taken to show her disdain for industry.

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