An­a­lysts now pes­simistic GOP can re­form taxes

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

Tax of­fi­cials at some of Amer­ica’s big­gest com­pa­nies are dis­count­ing chances that Repub­li­cans will be able to re­write the tax code by next year, say­ing Wed­nes­day that they’re go­ing about “busi­ness as usual.”

The bear­ish as­sess­ment sug­gests lit­tle faith in the GOP, which has for years promised a mas­sive tax code over­haul if vot­ers gave the party con­trol of Wash­ing­ton.

Now in con­trol, how­ever, Repub­li­cans have strug­gled to find unity on a plan that can flat­ten the code while not send­ing the coun­try spi­ral­ing into debt or an­ger­ing key con­stituen­cies.

Mean­ing­ful tax re­form by next sum­mer is “less likely than not,” said Jef­frey May­dew, who works in global tax plan­ning at the le­gal firm Baker McKen­zie.

And big changes are un­likely to hap­pen at all if things don’t ma­te­ri­al­ize by early next year, said Christo­pher J. Wolter, vice pres­i­dent of tax for Boe­ing, who says he’s “less op­ti­mistic than I was” about ma­jor ac­tion be­fore next sum­mer.

“Who knows what the elec­tions look like,” Mr. Wolter said. “And if we’ve lost this op­por­tu­nity, we may have lost it for, I’d hate to say it, but maybe for the rest of my ca­reer.”

Dave Koenig, vice pres­i­dent for tax at the Retail In­dus­try Lead­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, a trade group, said it de­pends on the def­i­ni­tion of “mean­ing­ful.”

“I think we will have tax leg­is­la­tion,” Mr. Koenig said. “Whether it is com­pre­hen­sive tax re­form or more of a tax cut … we’ll see.”

But Ju­dith Lemke, vice pres­i­dent of tax at Corn­ing In­cor­po­rated, a glass man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany, said she cau­tioned her man­age­ment team ear­lier this year not to get too ex­cited about the prospect for ma­jor changes un­til the plans ac­tu­ally came out.

“It’s hard to count on tax re­form,” said Ms. Lemke, who was also a top ad­viser to for­mer Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee Chair­man Max Bau­cus.

“In the mean­time, we con­tinue to plan sort of busi­ness as usual with a very close eye on tax re­form. I think the cal­en­dar is get­ting quite chal­leng­ing,” she said.

The busi­ness lead­ers were speak­ing at an event in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., hosted by Bloomberg BNA as House, Se­nate and White House of­fi­cials try to jump-start mo­men­tum on the is­sue be­fore law­mak­ers head home for their Au­gust re­cess.

“We’re all on board to do it this year,” Gary Cohn, di­rec­tor of the White House Na­tional Eco­nomic Coun­cil, said Wed­nes­day on Fox News.

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