May 17, 2012 / 5:16 PM / 7 years ago

Top Republican boosts pressure for U.S. tax rewrite

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top Republican lawmaker on Thursday stepped up pressure to force action next year on a rewrite of the U.S. tax code, which both major political parties agree has become overly complicated and inefficient.

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-MI) questions U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner in Washington February 15, 2012. REUTERS/ Gary Cameron

The chairman of the tax-writing panel in the U.S. House of Representatives said rank-and-file Republicans favor forcing a vote this year on a plan to overhaul the tax system in 2013.

Representative Dave Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, said after weeks of meetings he saw strong Republican support for using year-end expiration of individual rates “as leverage to force action in 2013 on comprehensive tax reform.”

“We should enact fast-track procedures to compel comprehensive tax reform next year,” Camp said at a tax policy forum, calling on Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama to embrace the idea as well.

The voluminous U.S. tax code has been weighted down with deductions, credits and other carve-outs for selected groups since its last revamp a generation ago in 1986.

The so-called fast-track procedures force up-or-down votes with no amendments and set deadlines. Camp said his panel could draft a proposal by August. The lawmaker cited 34 examples of such ‘fast track’ authority already in law.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner this week demanded more spending cuts in exchange for raising the federal government’s legal borrowing authority, and also introduced the fast-track approach, used in the past for moving trade agreements.

Little action is expected before November 6 elections on a series of important congressional fiscal decisions, including whether to extend lower tax rates enacted under President George W. Bush and extended by Obama.

Obama and most Democrats favor letting lower rates for the wealthiest Americans expire, and raising tax rates on investment income for high-income earners.

Republicans want to extend all the lower rates.

Camp also said that Republicans are serious about culling a group of mostly corporate tax breaks known as “tax extenders.”

“I know this may make some people nervous. Don’t be; no decisions have been made,” he said.

The extenders are a hodge-podge of tax breaks that are typically extended each year with little debate. Camp’s panel will hold a second hearing on the breaks’ merits, likely in June.

Separately, a top adviser to Camp told another tax panel that the Republican plan to slash the top corporate rate from 35 percent to 25 percent will require painful choices.

“You can’t get there by killing off some renewable energy credits,” said George Callas, counsel for Camp, referring to a popular target among conservative Republicans.

Additional reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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