House Republicans kick-started the next steps on tax reform Thursday, soliciting input from business executives on what they’d like to see in an overhaul, and warning against any delays in a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to rewrite the code.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan said he’s confident tax reform will happen by the end of the year, brushing aside other Republicans’ suspicion that the lift is too big to fit into the next seven months.
Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, pledged that the “most consequential tax cut” in the country’s history will ultimately become law.
The plan will start in the House Ways and Means Committee, which is the chief tax-writing panel on Capitol Hill, and Chairman Kevin Brady set the parameters for his members Thursday.
“Now is the time to go bold. Now is the time to deliver real results for the American people,” the Texas Republican said as he kicked off the hearing.
Witnesses who testified on Thursday included John J. Stephens, senior executive vice president and chief financial officer for AT&T Inc., Douglas L. Peterson, president and CEO of S&P Global Inc., and Steven Rattner, who served on former President Barack Obama’s auto task force.
One early area of agreement was on speeding up write-offs of business expenses rather than the current system that has them spread it over a number of years.
“We would invest more with immediate expensing,” Mr. Stephens said.
House Republicans have called for such a change in their blueprint, in addition to other provisions such as lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent and cutting the top individual rate from 39.6 percent to 33 percent.
But Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Texas Democrat, said the businesses represented Thursday were already doing well under the current system.
The proof that the House GOP’s plan will grow jobs “has to come from some people who come before this committee who are not telling us, basically, that they think giving themselves a tax break is a good thing,” he said. “Because I think everyone will agree with that kind of conclusion.”
Rep. Peter J. Roskam, Illinois Republican, acknowledged that the wealthy are doing well today but that others would be harmed if lawmakers don’t keep the process moving.
“It’s the folks at the lower end of the economic spectrum who suffer if we wring our hands and lose a once-in-a-generation opportunity by pursuing a perfect tax code, which is a complete illusion,” Mr. Roskam said. “Perfect tax code is the unicorn of 2017.”
Mr. Ryan told reporters Thursday he’s confident there will be results by year’s end.
“Our goal — and I feel very confident we can meet this goal — is calendar year 2017 for tax reform,” he said. “And I think we’re making good progress.”
The White House also recently released a short outline of what it would like to see in a tax reform package that included lowering the corporate tax rate to 15 percent and the top individual rate to 35 percent.
“Know this — @POTUS Donald Trump will sign into law the most consequential tax cut in American history,” Mr. Pence said on Twitter Thursday.
House Republicans have included in their blueprint a $1 trillion tax levied on imports, which is designed both to raise revenue to pay for other rate cuts and end tax preferences given to certain foreign-made goods.
But both the White House and Senate Republicans have been cool on the idea, known as a border adjustment tax.
If the border tax is dropped, lawmakers would likely need to find another way to make up that revenue stream.
Mr. Ryan said there could be some kind of adjustment and phase-in period if it is included.
“I obviously think border adjustment’s the smart way to go,” he said. “But if you’re not going to do border adjustment, then you have to look at the alternatives to that. There’s always upsides and downsides to alternatives.”
Still, the White House hasn’t actively supported the idea, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at a separate event Tuesday that it doesn’t create a level playing field.
“It has very different impacts on different companies. It has the potential to pass on significant costs to the consumer,” Mr. Mnuchin said at an event hosted by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. “We want to make sure that we create a level playing field.”
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