WH adviser 'optimistic' for corporate tax reform

A top economic official in the White House on Tuesday expressed confidence that the next Congress can pass corporate tax reform.

National Economic Council Director Jeffrey Zients said the proposal for overhauling the corporate code put forward by President Obama is “remarkably similar” to the one put forward last year by Rep. Dave Camp (Mich.), the Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

“That basic three-part structure, that framework, is similar, or remarkably overlapping,” Zients said at an event hosted by The Economic Club of Washington, D.C. “That makes me optimistic that we can get something done.”

Asked whether the administration would send tax reform legislation to Capitol Hill, Zients said, “We’ll see what is most helpful in terms of advancing corporate tax reform in 2015.”

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Obama has proposed lowering the corporate statutory rate from 35 percent to the high-20s while eliminating many deductions. Camp also proposed to lower the rate, but down to the mid-20s.

Camp has proposed shielding most of the profits corporations make offshore from U.S. taxation, while Obama has called for a minimum tax on global earnings. But some tax analysts insist there is some overlap between those proposals. 

Zients was less optimistic about the chances for reforming the individual tax code, saying there are “too many special interests and loopholes” that are politically difficult to eliminate.

But Democrats and Republicans are also at odds over whether individual reform should raise taxes on the wealthy and whether it should bring in more revenue to the government. 

Republicans are seeking to lower the top individual rate, currently at 39.6 percent while scrapping a range of tax breaks. Obama and Democrats are seeking further taxes on the wealthiest.

“There’s not the revenue neutrality we’ve talked about,” Zients said.

Beyond tax reform, Zients said he believes the next Congress can pass bipartisan legislation on the economy, infrastructure, trade agreements, and another reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, whose charter is set to expire at the end of June.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in an interview that aired Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that tax reform legislation and a long-term highway bill “are in the realm of doable” during Obama’s last two years in office.

Zients said he hopes Congress can move beyond passage of another continuing resolution to fund the government when lawmakers return to Washington after the elections.

“We are hopeful in the lame-duck session in November that we can sign an omnibus bill.”

Bernie Becker contributed.