Se­nate aims to com­plete tax re­form plans by Au­gust

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI Dave Boyer con­tributed to this re­port.

Law­mak­ers hope to reach “crit­i­cal mass” in sup­port for a tax over­haul by Au­gust, but still have a num­ber of po­lit­i­cal and pro­ce­dural hur­dles to over­come be­fore then, a top Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee staffer said Tues­day.

As Congress plots its agenda for the rest of this year, the chief tax coun­sel for Repub­li­cans on the Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee said they are still aim­ing for quick ac­tion, but even if the timetable slips, he still thinks it could get done by 2018 — ahead of con­gres­sional elec­tions.

The White House is push­ing for speedy ac­tion, say­ing tax cuts are needed to spur the econ­omy now, but Capi­tol Hill ap­pears to be brac­ing for a longer time frame.

Mark Prater, a top aide to Fi­nance Com­mit­tee Chair­man Sen. Or­rin G. Hatch, said the plans are in “flux.”

“I will say that on some­thing as com­pli­cated as tax re­form, it’s very hard to prob­a­bly com­plete that by the end of a tra­di­tional con­gres­sional ses­sion,” Mr. Prater said at a con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton hosted by the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment (OECD).

A ma­jor tax over­haul is a uni­fy­ing goal for both the White House and con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans, who are look­ing for ac­com­plish­ments they can take to vot­ers next year.

Repub­li­cans had tried to in­ter­est for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, but they couldn’t agree on the goals, and the ef­fort foundered. Now it’s been re­vived, but the White House and Capi­tol Hill ap­pear to be dif­fer­ing on strat­egy.

Pres­i­dent Trump, meet­ing with con­gres­sional Re­pub­li­can lead­ers, said Tues­day that he would en­act the big­gest tax cut in his­tory “if it’s passed the way we’d like to have it passed.”

“It will spur busi­ness like never be­fore,” he said. Mr. Trump’s blue­print gen­er­ally tracks a House GOP plan in cut­ting per­sonal in­come tax rates, though the pres­i­dent wants a deeper cut in the cor­po­rate tax, from 35 per­cent to 15 per­cent. The House plan calls for a 20 per­cent tax.

House lead­ers have said they want to pass a tax pack­age in 2017, and Ways and Means Com­mit­tee Chair­man Rep. Kevin Brady said Tues­day they’re “laser fo­cused” on get­ting it done this year.

“The Trump team feels the same way, and the Se­nate as well,” Mr. Brady said on Fox News.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, how­ever, said re­cently he would want to try to fin­ish it “this Congress,” set­ting a much longer ceil­ing for ac­tion.

Mr. Prater said if things do slip, elec­tion-year ac­tion is at least pos­si­ble. He pointed to a tax law re­peal­ing an ex­port pro­vi­sion that was de­bated dur­ing the height of the 2004 po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns and ul­ti­mately signed by Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush in Oc­to­ber of that year.

He said a broader over­haul, though, could be a heav­ier lift.

“The po­lit­i­cal mar­ket­place will test kind of how ag­gres­sive the mem­bers want to be” on the broad goals of cut­ting rates and broad­en­ing the tax base, Mr. Prater said.

In ad­di­tion to de­sired changes on the in­di­vid­ual and busi­ness side, Mr. Prater also said there would be “se­ri­ous” con­se­quences if pol­i­cy­mak­ers don’t ad­dress in­ter­na­tional tax is­sues.

“The sys­tem en­cour­ages firms to earn in­come out­side the U.S. [and] dis­cour­ages firms from bring­ing earn­ings back to the U.S.,” he said.

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