U.S. executives tell Congress they want permanent tax reform

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Wall Street and corporate executives urged lawmakers on Thursday to pursue a permanent tax reform package that avoids expanding the federal deficit as a way to drive U.S. economic growth, investment and job creation.

At a hearing before the House of Representatives tax committee, businessmen including executives from AT&T Inc T.N, Emerson Electric Co EMR.N and S&P Global Inc SPGI.N, said business needs permanent reforms to enhance certainty for long-term investments that can expand markets, grow jobs and increase wages.

“I need a permanent tax rate and I need it for at least 10 years,” said Emerson Chief Executive David Farr, who is also chairman of the National Association of Manufacturers, a powerful trade group with 14,000 members.

The endorsement of permanent policy changes could help House Republicans advance their revenue-neutral approach in a tax debate that has spawned calls for deficit-funded tax cuts that would have to expire after a decade under Senate rules.

The hearing, the first in a series to be held by the House Ways and Means Committee, was intended to show lawmakers moving forward on tax reform at a time of growing doubts about President Donald Trump’s ability to overhaul the U.S. tax code this year.

Trump officials met this week with leaders from the House and Senate as part of an effort to agree on legislation that could pass Congress.

Trump and his fellow Republicans made passing what would be the first major tax reform bill since 1986 a central pledge of last year’s presidential and congressional campaigns.

But Congress must first enact healthcare legislation. The Senate healthcare debate could drag on through the summer, leaving tax reform for late 2017 or early 2018. Failure could postpone tax reform for years.

The business executives’ formula for business tax reform included permanent tax cuts; an end to taxation of foreign profits; immediate expensing for capital investments and strong research incentives.

Farr also said he backed Trump’s 15 percent income tax rate for corporations, less than half of the current 35 percent.

Democrats blasted Republican reforms as benefiting the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and charged the white male executives with representing a narrow segment of America.

“Look at the panel. Just look. All white men. Where are the women? Where are the minorities?” said Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis.

Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Dan Grebler