Trump meets with retailer to talk taxes, imports

CEOs of Target, Best Buy and other big chains sat down for high level tax talks at the White House

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump this week called tax code revisions a critical way to boost the nation’s economy as he kicked off a White House meeting with chief executive officers of Target, Best Buy and six other major retailers.The retailers spoke with Trump about an overhaul of the corporate tax law and infrastructure improvements. While companies like Best Buy and Target support changes to the tax code, they urged Trump to oppose a proposal for a new border tax on imported goods.The border tax is among sweeping changes proposed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Convincing Trump to oppose the measure would probably bring an end to it.Trump had said on Thursday that he would announce his own “phenomenal” tax plan in the coming weeks. U.S. stocks hit record intraday highs, and the U.S. dollar and bond yields rose.At Wednesday’s meeting, Trump said work on a tax plan was going “really well” but gave no details except to say it would simplify the tax code.The meeting included Target’s Brian Cornell, Best Buy’s Hubert Joly, Gap’s Art Peck, Autozone’s William Rhodes, Walgreens Boots Alliance’s Stefano Pessina, J.C. Penney’s Marvin Ellison, Jo-Ann Stores’ Jill Soltau and Tractor Supply’s Gregory Sandfort.”We stressed the importance of taking a thoughtful approach to tax reform for both individuals and corporations,” Rhodes said after the meeting.The group also met with the heads of the two tax-writing congressional committees, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.Brady and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) are leading the push to cut the corporate income tax to 20 percent from 35 percent, impose a 20 percent tax on imports and exclude export revenue from taxable income.Companies that rely heavily on imports, such as retailers, automakers and refiners, say House Republicans’ border tax would outweigh the benefit of a lower headline corporate tax. Critics also say the tax would lead to higher consumer prices for imported products.Retailers have become the most vocal opponents to the proposal, saying a 20 percent tax on imported goods would cause prices to increase for consumers and erase any profits the companies currently make. Nearly all of the nation’s clothing, shoes and electronics are imported into the United States, as well as foods that cannot be grown domestically, like coffee and palm oil.The largest U.S. electronics retailer, Best Buy, for example, has circulated a flyer to lawmakers, which cites an analyst forecast that a 20 percent tax would wipe out the company’s projected annual net income of $1 billion and turn it into a $2 billion loss.Trump has voiced some concern about the House tax proposal, calling it “too complicated.” But the White House also has said a border tax on goods from Mexico is one option under review to pay for a wall along the nation’s southern border.Since the 1994 implementation of NAFTA, trade between Mexico and the United States has risen more than six fold. Each country exported about $40 billion to the other in 1993. Last year the U.S. imported $294 billion in goods from Mexico and exported $231 billion back, U.S. Census data show.”Tax reform is one of the best opportunities to influence our economy,” Trump said in brief opening remarks that included no mention of the border tax idea.The prospect of a big import tax is also pitting large U.S. companies against one another. A group of major exporters, including Boeing, General Electric and Pfizer, has formed a coalition to support the import tax.