Now that Obamacare is dead and buried, at least for the near future, all eyes are on tax reform.
Can House Speaker Paul Ryan herd enough House cats in a tax bill that’s also acceptable to the Senate?
The Wall Street Journal reports Republicans’ Tax Overhaul Likely to Face Its Own Slings and Arrows.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday that a tax bill would be “a lot simpler” than a health-care overhaul. “There is very, very strong support.”
But scratch deeper, and the GOP quest for a full overhaul of the tax code is fraught with squabbles, procedural hurdles and difficult trade-offs. The party’s failure on health care—after having seven years to prepare—shows how hard it is for Republicans to write complex legislation that attracts support from their moderate and conservative wings.
“It’s just a reminder of how incredibly hard transformational legislation is,” said John Gimigliano, a former GOP congressional tax aide now at KPMG LLP.
To succeed, Republicans need to bridge at least three big gaps.
First, they need to balance competing desires to cut tax rates sharply and to slow the rise of national debt. Republican leaders in Congress say they want a revenue-neutral plan—one that brings in about as much money as today’s tax system. Faster economic growth might help, but it doesn’t fully bridge the divide. To accomplish revenue neutrality while sharply lowering rates, they will attempt to whack popular tax breaks, such as business deductions of interest on debt and individual state and local tax deductions. They will meet resistance from groups that want to protect those breaks.
Second, they have to reconcile alternate visions of what they are setting out to accomplish and who will benefit. Mr. Trump has said his priority is middle-class tax cuts for individuals. “Not the top 1%,” said Mr. Mnuchin. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R., Texas) want an overhaul primarily focused on promoting economic growth, even if that means tax cuts that favor the very top of the income scale. The plans they all campaigned on are tilted to the top, according to independent analyses.
Third, the party is at odds over the Ryan-Brady plan for border adjustment—taxing imports and exempting exports. The Trump administration has been ambivalent and sometimes critical of the idea. Senate Republicans are outright cold to it. Messrs. Ryan and Brady say it’s crucial because it provides about $1 trillion to offset corporate-tax-rate cuts and it discourages companies from shifting profits abroad.
“The notion that tax is easier than health is not borne out by the facts,” said a Senate GOP aide. “Having discussed health care for seven years, Republicans were 75% in agreement on the policy. On tax, none of the foundational questions have been answered.”
The big-picture tax debate—higher taxes vs. lower—breaks down along party lines, but little issues can quickly turn parochial. For example, Republicans from high tax states such as New York and New Jersey may be less willing to kill the state and local tax deduction than their counterparts from Texas and Florida, which lack income taxes.
“A million details come out of the woodwork that you never thought of,” Mr. Gimigliano said.
Trump Tax-Cut Trade Leaking Air
Based on a chart of a basket of high tax bracket corporations, the market has serious doubts that substantial tax cuts are on the way.
Here’s Goldman’s take:
The House Republican blueprint proposes a reduction in the statutory federal corporate tax rate to 20% from the current 35%. We estimate that a 5 [percentage point] reduction in the effective tax rate would boost ROE (return on equity) by 100 bp (basis points) and lift S&P 500 EPS (earnings per share) by about 6%. However, our Washington, D.C. economist expects the tax rate will be cut less than proposed to roughly 25%. Investors have also reduced expectations for the timing and size of tax reform. After outperforming the S&P 500 by 520 bp postelection, our basket of stocks with the highest effective tax rates has given back all of its postelection gains in the last three months.
Paul BAT Unlikely to Survive in the Senate
Ryan’s is strongly in favor of a Border Adjustment Tax (BAT). His problem is the same as he faced with Obamacare: Democrats will not vote for such a measure, and a number of Republican senators will abandon ship as well.
In the absence of a BAT, I strongly suspect something will pass. But if Ryan insists on a BAT, flames on another key piece of key legislation will likely bite the dust.
As of 2002, France has a lower effective corporate tax rate than the US according to the CBO. How pathetic is that?
I propose we slash the corporate tax rate to zero. In response, money held overseas by corporations will return in a second.
Fiscal Conservatives, Where Art Thou?
What about the spending side? Where are all the fiscal conservatives tired of massive budget deficits now that they are in control? Are they hiding in the woodwork as with Obamacare?
Mike “Mish” Shedlock