Tax Reform Cannot Wait, Must Not Fail

Nov 6, 2017

President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

This month marks the 31st anniversary of the last time Congress passed a major overhaul of the tax code. In the years since, however, our tax system has grown increasingly complex. It has fallen out of step with our economy and become a drag on job creation and wage growth. Major reform is needed to spur economic growth and boost middle class families and job creators. Washington must achieve it, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is here to help—just like we were 31 years ago.

I remember how hard it was to reform the tax code in 1986. It took the efforts of political heavyweights like President Ronald Reagan, House Speaker Tip O’Neill, and Treasury Secretary James Baker—and the legislation still collapsed repeatedly before final passage. It also took the willingness of the business community to stand up and stick its neck out to support a package that wasn’t perfect but much better than the alternative.

Now it’s time to do it again. It will be no easier this time around. But we’ve got a once-in-a-generation chance to get it done—and if we do it right, it can be the single most important step our leaders take to drive the economy forward.

Above all else, the Chamber is pushing for reforms that maximize growth. This includes lowering tax rates for all businesses and infusing permanency, simplicity, and clarity into tax law. It also includes an internationally competitive territorial system, which means America will no longer tax U.S. businesses’ overseas earnings at home after they’ve already been taxed abroad. Tax reform must also eliminate the bias against capital investment and much, much more.

Even as we push for our goals, we must keep in mind that no one gets everything he or she wants out of a bill of this magnitude. The 1986 package wasn’t perfect, but the Chamber supported and helped pass the final compromise because it achieved our ultimate goal of significantly lowering marginal tax rates. Similar compromises will be necessary today, as they are for all major legislation.

Failure is not an option. The U.S. economy is rolling along at a slightly better pace after years of slow growth. If tax reform fails, the economy will likely slow. If it passes, tax reform will be the shot in the arm our economy needs to achieve long-term prosperity. This is why, through thick and thin, the Chamber will be there to help get it done.

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