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White House Stance on 22 Percent Rate Still Murky

Posted on December 8, 2017 by Jonathan Curry

Top White House officials gave mixed messages December 7 on President Trump’s stance toward a 22 percent corporate income tax rate, alternately suggesting either a degree of openness or inflexibility.

Council of Economic Advisers Chair Kevin Hassett was the first to suggest that Trump’s remarks from December 2, in which the president told reporters that the corporate rate could end up at 22 percent, show he understands how the legislative process works and would be open to compromising on the 20 percent rate proposed in tax reform legislation, according to Politico.

“The president has spoken for himself on these things, and he's acutely aware of how important marginal tax rates are, and also he's acutely aware that in conference that sometimes things move around,” the White House’s top economist said, speaking at an event in Washington hosted by the American Council for Capital Formation, Politicoreported.

Hassett had previously indicated that a 22 percent rate wouldn’t necessarily undermine the tax bill’s economic growth potential.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Reuters, White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short explained away Trump’s December 2 comments as the president merely “reflecting” his conversations with lawmakers. Those comments should not be interpreted as an endorsement of a corporate rate higher than 20 percent, Short said.

Short added that “20 percent is about as high as we feel comfortable going,” with countries like the United Kingdom and Ireland administering corporate tax rates lower than that.

Asked to reconcile those statements at a White House press briefing later that day, press secretary Sarah Sanders said “we’re not going to negotiate that from the podium,” but added that the administration was aiming to get the rate as low as possible.

“Fifteen is better than 20. Twenty is better than 22. And 22 is better than what we have,” Sanders said.

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