Trump pushes tax reform with retail executives

Greg Nash

President Trump on Wednesday touted his forthcoming tax plan to retail executives who represent an industry with major concerns over a tax plan from House Republicans.

“Tax reform is one of the best opportunities to really impact our economy,” Trump said. “So we’re doing a massive tax plan that’s coming along really well.”

Trump said his tax plan would be submitted in the “not too distant future.” He said it would benefit middle-income families and businesses, lower rates and simplify the tax code.

{mosads}”H&R Block probably won’t be to happy,” Trump joked. “People are going to love it.”

Trump’s opening remarks did not provide any indication about whether his tax plan would include “border adjustability,” a provision in the House Republicans’ tax plan that would tax imports and exempt exports.

Retailers are among the biggest opponents of border adjustability, arguing that it would result in higher prices for consumers. A number of Republican senators also have concerns about the proposal, putting its future in jeopardy.

The White House has given mixed signals on whether the president supports the border adjustment tax. Trump called it “too complicated” in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, but the White House later said that taxing imports could be one way to pay for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Gary Cohn, head of Trump’s National Economic Council, told CNBC earlier this month that border adjustability is “one of the options that’s on the table.”

A spokeswoman for Target, whose CEO attended the meeting, said in a statement that the border-adjustment provision was discussed. The statement did not say anything about Trump’s stance on the proposal but noted that Target opposes it.

“If enacted, the House proposal would have profound implications for our guests and business, and at Target, we believe that anything that raises prices for families is not a good idea for America,” the spokeswoman said. 

Trump during Wednesday’s meeting also spoke about his plans to cut regulations.

“We’re cutting regulations in just about every industry,” he told executives from companies including Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores, Gap, AutoZone, Target, Tractor Supply and JC Penney.

AutoZone CEO Bill Rhodes said in a statement after the meeting that retailers “had a positive and productive conversation with President Trump about the important role the retail industry plays in our national economy.”

“We stressed the importance of taking a thoughtful approach to tax reform for both individuals and corporations,” said Rhodes, who is also the chairman of the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

Later on Wednesday, the retail executives met separately with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

Brady told CNBC he had a “good meeting” with the retail leaders.

“These are iconic American brands and some of the sharpest CEOs I know,” he said.

Brady remained confident that the border-adjustment tax would be included in a tax overhaul.

“If you don’t have that in there, tax rates on our local businesses … will go up, our tax code will continue to favor foreign products over American-made products, and we’ll continue to have major incentives to drive jobs and headquarters overseas.”

Updated at 6:07 p.m.

Tags Kevin Brady Orrin Hatch
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