Trump turns back to tax over­haul; pitch aimed at truck­ers

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - NEWS - By Cather­ine Lucey and Josh Boak

MIDDLETOWN, PA. » Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump pitched his tax plan as a boost for truck­ers at an event Wednesday in Penn­syl­va­nia, say­ing, “Amer­ica first means putting Amer­i­can truck­ers first.”

Trump ap­peared be­fore about a thou­sand cheer­ing peo­ple at an air­plane hangar dra­mat­i­cally draped with Amer­i­can flags. Two big rigs were in the back­ground.

“It will be rocket fuel for our econ­omy,” Trump said of a plan that would dra­mat­i­cally cut cor­po­rate tax rates from 35 per­cent to 20 per­cent, re­duce the num­ber of per­sonal in­come tax brack­ets and boost the stan­dard de­duc­tion.

Trump said a cut to busi­ness taxes would help truck­ers be­cause there will be “more prod­ucts to de­liver and more con­tracts to fill.” He also said his plan would ben­e­fit mid­dle-class fam­i­lies by low­er­ing rates, cre­at­ing new jobs and mak­ing it eas­ier for busi­ness own­ers to pass companies on to their chil­dren.

“So many peo­ple have come up to me and said give it to the mid­dle class, give it to peo­ple who need it,” Trump said.

Trump is div­ing back into the tax fight after weeks in which his at­ten­tion has shifted to rapidly emerg­ing crises — in­clud­ing the mass shoot­ing in Las Ve­gas and the hur­ri­cane re­cov­ery ef­fort in Puerto Rico — as well as dra­mas of his own mak­ing, such as his es­ca­lat­ing feud with Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and pub­lic ten­sion with Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son.

Taxes are the chief leg­isla­tive pri­or­ity for Repub­li­cans hun­gry for a ma­jor leg­isla­tive achieve­ment. With the 2018 cam­paign year loom­ing, GOP law­mak­ers want some­thing to show for their time as the ma­jor­ity party, and tax leg­is­la­tion re­mains their best hope.

Trump has left it up to Con­gress to fill in many specifics of his plan, which omits de­tails such as the in­come lev­els for his new tax brack­ets. The out­reach to truck­ers in Penn­syl­va­nia is an at­tempt to give a bluecol­lar ap­peal to a frame­work that out­side tax an­a­lysts say would largely fa­vor the wealthy.

About two-thirds of truck­ing firms are struc­tured as small busi­nesses in which the prof­its dou­ble as the own­ers’ in­come, what’s com­monly known as “pass-through” companies, said Chris Spear, pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tions.

The frame­work would cut the tax rate for these firms to 25 per­cent from 39.6 per­cent.

“It’s pretty crit­i­cal for our mem­ber­ship,” Spear said.

But the lib­eral Cen­ter on Bud­get and Pol­icy Pri­or­i­ties said few truck­ers would ben­e­fit from this pref­er­en­tial rate be­cause the ma­jor­ity of truck drivers are em­ploy­ees rather than passthrough busi­ness own­ers, based on its anal­y­sis of Cen­sus data.

Dur­ing his speech, Trump hailed truck­ers as a barom­e­ter for the na­tion’s econ­omy, and praised them as un­sung he­roes.

“You’re going to make more money. You’re going to do bet­ter than ever be­fore. And we truly ad­mire you. You are our he­roes, be­lieve me,” he told them. “You are our he­roes.”

Repub­li­cans in Con­gress aren’t solidly be­hind Trump, with some from high-tax states balk­ing be­cause the frame­work calls for elim­i­nat­ing the fed­eral de­duc­tion for state and lo­cal taxes. That de­duc­tion is claimed by an es­ti­mated 44 mil­lion peo­ple and costs the gov­ern­ment an es­ti­mated $1.3 tril­lion in lost rev­enue over 10 years.

Frac­tious Repub­li­can law­mak­ers, es­pe­cially those from New York, New Jer­sey and Cal­i­for­nia, are wary of the po­ten­tial fi­nan­cial hit to their con­stituents. They con­tend re­peal­ing the de­duc­tion would sub­ject peo­ple to be­ing taxed twice.

“They need our votes” on the tax plan, said Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., a mem­ber of the group.

Dis­cus­sions with House lead­ers on a pos­si­ble com­pro­mise took place last week but are on hold, Collins and other law­mak­ers in the group said Wednesday. They said they were con­fi­dent of a com­pro­mise.

Trump high­lighted the tax plan’s pro­vi­sions aimed at en­cour­ag­ing in­ter­na­tional companies to bring back, or repa­tri­ate, cash that they’ve kept over­seas. All told, there’s more than $1 tril­lion in cash held abroad by S&P 500 companies, ac­cord­ing to Deutsche Bank.

“We will to­tally elim­i­nate the penalty on re­turn­ing fu­ture earn­ings back to the United States and we will im­pose a one-time low tax on money cur­rently parked over­seas so it can be brought back home to Amer­ica, where it be­longs and where it can do its job,” he said. He added that his Coun­cil of Eco­nomic Ad­vis­ers es­ti­mates that the change, along with a lower tax rate, “would likely give the typ­i­cal Amer­i­can house­hold a $4,000 pay raise.”

“Could be a lot more than that, too,” he said.

The $4,000 in ad­di­tional in­come es­ti­mate comes from a back of the en­ve­lope cal­cu­la­tion by White House eco­nomics ad­viser Kevin Has­sett based on companies re­turn­ing 71 per­cent of their for­eign prof­its over the course of eight years.

This es­ti­mate ap­pears to as­sume that the re­turned prof­its would flow to work­ers in the form of higher wages. But many econ­o­mists say much of it would likely be re­turned to in­vestors in the form of stock div­i­dends and buy­backs.

Trump also said he would help truck­ers with a yet-to-be-an­nounced in­fra­struc­ture plan that he said would have “a spe­cial fo­cus on road­ways and high­ways.”

“They will be smooth, beau­ti­ful high­ways again,” he said.

ALEX BRAN­DON — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks about tax re­form dur­ing an event at the Har­ris­burg In­ter­na­tional Air­port, Wednesday in Middletown, Pa.

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