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Bill MacRostie

Bill MacRostie
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HTC Watch | Tax Reform One Step Closer

Posted by Bill MacRostie on Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Hill_Christmas| Architect of the Capitol

The tax reform conference committee issued its report late Friday afternoon and the 20% HTC taken over five years was included, a provision that was introduced in an amendment by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) which reinstated the 20% rate from 10% as contained in the original version of the Senate bill. (The 10% credit for non-historic pre-1936 buildings has been completely eliminated.) Overall, this is good news for the historic rehabilitation industry and historic communities across the country. The next step will be the reconciled version of the bill to be voted on by the House and Senate this week, with signature by the President looking likely before Christmas. 

While the five year provision is not ideal, it appears the federal historic tax credit will continue to be a viable program, and hopefully there will be opportunities in the near future to improve the law. (An important note: should the bill pass as is expected, those wanting to qualify for the current federal HTC program must have the "taxpayer" claiming the credit as owner of the building by the end of 2017.)

An unexpected positive development in the conference report was the inclusion of the option for 60-month phased projects under the transition rule. This was a glaring omission from the earlier versions of the bill, which only addressed the 24-month basis test counting period and created uncertainty for current and future phased projects, and was an issue lobbied by the Historic Tax Credit Coalition (HTCC).

Many thanks are due those of you that stood with the HTCC to voice your support for the tax credit. We encourage you to reach out and thank the legislators that have been champions for the incentive in critical ways, such as Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC). The need for our advocacy is far from over, but we could not have gotten to where we are now without the efforts of all involved.

Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter for the latest on this and other historic tax credit news.  

Topics: federal HTC, tax reform

Historic Tax Credits and Urban Revitalization

Posted by Bill MacRostie on Wednesday, April 19, 2017

@4240 | Cortex Innovation Community

This week’s edition of The Economist magazine has an informative article about urban revitalization in St. Louis. In a city with a turbulent history of racial segregation and housing discrimination, and one The Economist calls “one of the country’s most troubled,” the article describes signs of hope in the form of Millennial in-migration and successful educational efforts in the city’s most challenged neighborhoods. At the heart of these trends the article highlights a public/private innovation district named Cortex Innovation Community being developed—and thriving—in a formerly abandoned industrial area between Washington and St. Louis Universities.

The article describes scores of biotech, medical and scientific start-ups being nurtured by business incubators and other Cortex-sponsored efforts. What the article doesn’t mention—but we know because Cortex and its joint venture partner Wexford Science + Technology are long-standing clients of our firm—is that one of the first efforts in the district was the renovation of an historic warehouse building that obtained critical project financing from federal and state historic tax credits.

In yet another example of what has been repeated hundreds of times across the country for decades, historic tax credits provided risk-capital in the early stages of a multi-year project… and served to catalyze future development in its surrounding neighborhood. We are proud to have been a part of this pioneering project.

We believe that as the new administration and Congress begin to tackle comprehensive tax reform, they would be well-advised to keep in mind the value of federal tax policy in directing capital toward certain activities widely acknowledged to be in the public interest. Republican tax reform orthodoxy in Congress—especially in the House of Representatives—holds that removing incentives from the tax code means the federal government will “stop picking winners and losers” and will allow a purer market to function on its own in choosing where capital should be directed. The reality of our history in the last half century is that widespread disinvestment in many of our cities and small towns make early investment in revitalization efforts too risky for the “pure” market to stomach without backup from government. The historic tax credit has played a vital role in revitalization efforts all over the country, and should be kept in the tax code.

Topics: policy, Advocacy, federal HTC, St. Louis, Cortex Innovation Community

Urgent Message to Historic Tax Credit Advocates

Posted by Bill MacRostie on Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Historic Tax Credit Coalition (HTCC) and MacRostie Historic Advisors are asking that historic tax credit advocates take action TODAY to contact key representatives and voice their support for the federal historic tax credit program. As outlined in the letter below from John Leith-Tetrault, Public Policy Advisor for the National Trust Community Investment Corporation (NTCIC), the time is now to act as House Republicans begin meetings on December 14 to discuss their plan for comprehensive tax reform.

Instructions for how you can reach out and an outline for your support are explained below. Thank you for your support on this important action.


Dear HTCC Members,

This is the most important message I have ever sent to HTCC members since its inception in 2009. House Republicans are meeting next week to discuss their path forward on comprehensive tax reform, which will impact our industry’s collective bottom line in 2017.

The talk is over and the time for action is now.

Ways and Means Republicans are convening in a special meeting in Washington, D.C. on December 14-15 to try to achieve consensus on the broad parameters of tax reform. Tax staff will then finalize bill language. Intelligence we have tells us that the bill is likely to be a stripped down version of tax reform – similar to the Blue Print we have discussed – with many, if not all credits and deductions eliminated.

It isn’t hard to see that if the HTC is not in the bill, and with Senate action delayed until later in 2017, there may well be a period of industry uncertainty this spring that could negatively impact the HTC market and the timing of transactions coming out of predevelopment.  

Here is what you can do, right now. There are 9 Republican Ways and Means co-sponsors of the Historic Tax Credit Improvement Act (HR 3846) listed below. In addition, we have had numerous contacts with 3 more Members, Jason Smith (MO-8), George Holding (NC-13) and Tom Rice (SC-7). If you have a project, office or client in any of these districts or states send an email to the tax staffer listed below for that Member to advocate for retention of the credit. Phone numbers are also provided. Please do so no later than Wednesday December 13.

Your message should be that you hope that your Member will speak up now for the retention and improvement of the HTC as part of a reformed tax code. Briefly outline your company’s connection to the district/state and mention at least one project that illustrates the importance of the HTC. Make it clear that “but for” the HTC, these projects cannot be done. If you have future projects that would not get done if the credit disappears, all the better. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me or Patrick for help in drafting your correspondence. Please copy Patrick Robertson at ( and me at ( on your final email and any response you receive. If you make a phone call, send us a note about what you learn.

Thanks in advance for your prompt action to save the Historic Tax Credit.

John Leith-Tetrault




Tax Staff Name

Tax Staff

Phone Number

Mike Kelly


Lori Prater


Pat Tiberi


Whitney Daffner


Tom Reed


William Davis




Drew Wayne


Lynn Jenkins


Abby Pezzi


Jim Renacci


Randy Herndon


Dave Reichert


Lindsay Manson


Pat Meehan


Michael Kirlin


Erik Paulsen


Mike Stober


Kristi Noem


Andrew Christianson


Jason Smith


Mark Roman




Justin Sok


Tom Rice


McArn Bennett


George Holding


Matt Stross




Topics: policy, Advocacy, federal HTC

Commercial Business District Office Towers Can Benefit From Historic Tax Credits

Posted by Bill MacRostie on Thursday, October 27, 2016

Since industrialization, urban centers across the country have been building up. Early multi-story masonry buildings gave way to glass and steel skyscrapers to create the skylines that have become iconic for many cities. In the 1920s and 1930s, technology and design collided to create the International Style of building that became the prevalent blueprint for modern construction for many decades.

But what is to be done about the millions of square feet that have been left vacant and obsolete when businesses abandon these towers for new facilities or more convenient locations?

One option is to rehabilitate them using historic tax credits. Because of the modern forms that many of these buildings take, it is easy to forget that they may in fact be eligible for these valuable tax incentives. In order to be eligible for the federal 20 percent historic rehabilitation tax credit for income-producing properties, the building must at least meet the following criteria:

  • Be 50 years or older;
  • Be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places either individually or as part of a district;
  • Meet the basis requirements for rehabilitation.

(For a full explinataion of eligibility requirements, click here.)

A quick translation of these requirements means that buildings built before 1967 that have historic significance either architecturally or culturally – which is often an easy case to make for these imposing buildings – and require a large scale make-over are ideal candidates for the federal program, and in many cases state programs as well.

With the recent move towards less traditional office spaces in industrial warehouses and even digital conference rooms, developers must be creative in vision for the reuse of commercial business district office towers. In many cases, these buildings are being converted into apartments, condominiums, and hotels as Millennials and Baby Boomers make the move back to urban areas. These uses are also in keeping with the standards that must be adhered to for rehabilitation and successful historic tax credit projects as often the layout of offices and corridors can be retained in order to create dwelling units.

MHA has provided historic consulting services on the rehabilitation of historic commercial business towers in many cities around the country:

Alto 211 | Dallas, TX
Mixed Use

Ames Boston Hotel | Boston, MA

The New York EDITIONS | New York, NY

Inland Steel Building | Chicago, IL

Rehabilitation projects of this size require a tremendous amount of oversight in order to successfully qualify for rehabilitation credits, but they prove time and time again to be marketable and successful for developers who take the risk. It is only a bonus that they help to protect historic skylines, and in many cases improve them.

Contact us if you’d like to know more about our work with commercial business district office tower rehabilitations.

Topics: Office, Urban, Commercial, Mid-Century

What Trump's Tax Return Could Mean For Historic Tax Credits

Posted by Bill MacRostie on Thursday, October 6, 2016

For those of us watching the Presidential race in the context of its likely effect on tax reform, we may look back on Saturday, October 1, 2016 and say that was the day the political forces for sweeping tax code changes took a turn. As the world now knows, Saturday was when the New York Times published its story detailing how Donald Trump took a $916 million loss on his 1995 taxes and may not have paid any federal income taxes for 18 years. Trump says—and this really gets to the heart of this as a political issue beyond the election—that taking such a loss is perfectly legal. Business people use real estate depreciation, net operating losses, and any manner of other deductions and credits in the tax code as a matter of course. However, to the legions of Trump voters (and Bernie Sanders supporters for that matter) who are hurting economically but who nevertheless pay taxes, the idea of a billionaire paying NO TAXES for years can’t help but feed populist anger and have a political impact beyond the election…regardless of who wins.

Before this weekend, the political tea leaves seemed to indicate that Trump, who proposes to lower the corporate tax rate to 15%, would need to eliminate all tax preference items (including the historic credit) from the code. If former House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp’s 2014 discussion draft for tax reform—which pegged the corporate rate at 25%--eliminated nearly all “community investment” credits from the code, then it’s hard to imagine a rate of 15% not doing that and more.

Hillary Clinton—while not taking a formal position on the historic credit but supporting the Low Income Housing and New Markets credits—has a history of supporting urban focused programs and policies consistent with Democratic Party orthodoxy. Many have assumed that while generally supporting incremental tax reform, a Clinton administration would be inclined to keep economic development incentives in the code.

After the New York Times bombshell, however, all bets about a selective, incremental approach to tax reform may be off the table. A sizeable chunk of people in the country are hurting and angry, and sweeping tax code changes that more fairly balance the burden by eliminating “loopholes” may be the perfect way for a Trump or Clinton administration to address that anger.