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Washington - Trump Lacks Team And Clear Plan For Quick Tax Reform

Published on: March 31, 2017 05:38 PM
By: Reuters 
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Vice President Mike Pence holds two executive orders on trade scheduled to be signed by U.S. President Donald Trump during a schedule signing ceremony at the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 31, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos BarriaVice President Mike Pence holds two executive orders on trade scheduled to be signed by U.S. President Donald Trump during a schedule signing ceremony at the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 31, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Washington - President Donald Trump has neither a clear White House tax plan nor adequate staff yet to see through a planned tax reform, according to interviews with people in the administration, in Congress and among U.S. tax experts.

In an echo of its attempt to roll back Obamacare that ended in an embarrassing collapse in Congress, the Trump administration has vowed quick action on taxes. But it has yet to appoint people with the skills to evaluate complex tax laws, draft legislation and sell it to deeply divided lawmakers.

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Burned by last week’s failed healthcare measure largely authored by House of Representatives Republicans, Trump is determined not to count on Congress so much this time for handling the details on taxes, his second major legislative initiative.

But that only underscores his need for a strong White House tax team, which the administration still lacks. Many policy options are still being studied, from deficit-funded tax cuts to a European-style value-added tax.

“They’re still sorting out who’s in charge, who’s going to take the lead,” said William Hoagland, a longtime Senate Republican aide who worked on the last successful comprehensive tax reform effort in 1986.

“You need someone who has the ear and support of the president who can sell a tax plan, and you need the technical support for that person,” said Hoagland, now senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a think tank.

Financial markets have been reassessing expectations of fast action on taxes that have helped fuel a Trump stocks rally.

Members of Trump’s tax team are known, but not their exact duties. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn are senior team leaders. Others include White House advisers Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Trump huddled with Mnuchin on Thursday to discuss taxes.

“We are at the first stages of this process, beginning to engage with members of Congress, policy groups, business leaders, industry, constituents from around the country, and other stakeholders,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters on Thursday, Trump’s 69th day in office.

When Trump was elected in November, Republican lawmakers enthusiastically joined his call to rewrite the tax code and dismantle Obamacare in the first 100 days of his presidency.

In early February, Trump promised a “phenomenal” tax plan by early March that never appeared. Mnuchin spoke on Feb. 23 of enacting tax reform by August. Spicer acknowledged this week that the timetable could be slipping.

Another senior White House official said the administration had assumed it would still be working on healthcare at this point, not tax reform yet. The official, not authorized to speak publicly, spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

So far, Trump’s tax campaign is a far cry from President Ronald Reagan’s 1986 effort, in which Don Regan, as Treasury secretary and then White House chief of staff, spent many months developing legislation that won bipartisan support in Congress.

“The process under Reagan was much more developed, elaborate and long, and there was a strong bench of top-rate technicians putting things together,” said Steven Rosenthal, senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, a think tank.

Under Trump, he said, “None of that is happening.”

‘A LOT SIMPLER’

During the 2016 election campaign, Trump issued a tax plan that partly resembled one developed by House Speaker Paul Ryan, but Trump does not now appear wedded to either. It is a safe bet he will not lean heavily on the plan from Ryan, who drafted and championed the ill-fated plan to gut Obamacare.

“Trump now desperately needs a policy victory ... I would expect the president to play a much more activist role,” said Stephen Moore, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a think tank. Moore helped write the Trump campaign tax plan.

Mnuchin last week talked about a middle-class tax cut. He also said tax reform in many ways would be “a lot simpler” than healthcare, dismaying tax experts who said that is not so.

Comprehensive tax reform is so complex that it has defied Congresses and presidents since Reagan. Tax law is riddled with loopholes embedded in the economy and defended by beneficiaries.

Some fundamental questions remain unanswered within the Trump team. For instance, it is unclear if Trump would support a plan that adds to the budget deficit. Past tax reform efforts have tried to be “revenue neutral.”

Trump also has sent mixed messages on Ryan’s proposed “border adjustment tax” that would end the corporate deduction for import costs and make export income tax-free, aiming to boost exports and raise new tax revenues.

The Trump team is heavy on Wall Street experience, but short on tax expertise. At Treasury, Mnuchin is the only Senate-confirmed political appointee in place. The job of Treasury assistant secretary for tax policy is unfilled.

A person familiar with the hiring process for the job said: “Treasury needs more capable tax expertise ASAP, or the White House will yank total control for tax reform from the department for the rest of the year, maybe beyond.”

Mark Mazur, who held the Treasury tax job under former Democratic President Barack Obama, said Mnuchin has too much on his plate to concentrate fully on taxes.

Mnuchin has praised Treasury’s 100 tax policy career staff, but they can only offer options to Trump appointees, said Mazur, now director of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

“The political appointees are the ones who need to turn the crank on the sausage-making machine,” Mazur said.



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Read Comments (8)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Apr 01, 2017 at 09:47 PM TrumpISprez Says:

For middle income families the tax system ain't so bad . Like how much would we save already ? It's health care that's a killer . Let's get back to repealing Obama care . The goal should be to reduce costs for middle class who are getting slammed . I pay way more for health care .

2

 Apr 02, 2017 at 07:39 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
TrumpISprez Says:

For middle income families the tax system ain't so bad . Like how much would we save already ? It's health care that's a killer . Let's get back to repealing Obama care . The goal should be to reduce costs for middle class who are getting slammed . I pay way more for health care .

It is easy forget about health care. Those who can pay have it and the other drop dead. Good Trump policy

3

 Apr 02, 2017 at 11:45 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
TrumpISprez Says:

For middle income families the tax system ain't so bad . Like how much would we save already ? It's health care that's a killer . Let's get back to repealing Obama care . The goal should be to reduce costs for middle class who are getting slammed . I pay way more for health care .

on whose payroll are ??

4

 Apr 02, 2017 at 01:19 PM TrumpISprez Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

It is easy forget about health care. Those who can pay have it and the other drop dead. Good Trump policy

Wrong and fake news. It would actually go like this.

Those who can't pay get essential coverage via medicad. They do not drop dead. But there should be a few changes. Firstly, they would pay as much as they pay per an i-phone. Yes if they paid $500 a year it would go a long way even though medicad cost about $4500 per year on average. Second, they would recieve only essentials. (no dentist, glasses and free shoes just like me who pays for my health care)

Now those who can pay have extra non essentials. Thats just the way of the world where the rich get more. That's just life.

I think for starters they should allow middle class income earners to deduct health costs as untaxable income. We pay for that via my proposed medcaid cuts above.

It seems fair to me. And it would reduce my costs.Now please explain why you disagree

5

 Apr 02, 2017 at 01:21 PM TrumpISprez Says:

Reply to #3  
Anonymous Says:

on whose payroll are ??

Oh yes I am on corporate america's pay roll. Thats why I am so poor while the "low income" get all the hand outs and free lunches. (yes I have to pay for my kids school lunches)

6

 Apr 02, 2017 at 03:32 PM qazxc Says:

Tax reform starts at home.

Release your tax returns now.

7

 Apr 02, 2017 at 07:52 PM TrumpISprez Says:

Reply to #6  
qazxc Says:

Tax reform starts at home.

Release your tax returns now.

He paid 25% in 2005. Does that satisfy you?

8

 Apr 03, 2017 at 12:28 AM qazxc Says:

Reply to #7  
TrumpISprez Says:

He paid 25% in 2005. Does that satisfy you?

One tax return from 12 years ago???

What is he hiding?

Nixon a"h released his returns. So did Ford. So did Carter ym"s. So did Reagan. So did Bush 41 zol gzunt. So did Bubba (and Hillary). Ditto Bush 43 and Barak Obama.

What is he hiding, Comrade?

9

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