Executives of PVH Corp., J.C. Penney and other retailers, along with the Retail Industry Leaders Association, met with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to discuss tax reform, and while nothing definitive came of the meeting, retailers felt they were “heard.”
Brian Dodge, RILA’s executive vice president of public affairs, said the meeting with Mnuchin focused generally on tax reform, but admitted that “no conversation of taxes would be complete” without a discussion of the much-maligned border adjustment tax, which, as proposed by House Republicans, would see imported goods taxed more heavily.
Dodge declined to say directly whether he felt the meeting went well, instead saying “at a meeting like this, you hope for an opportunity to present the facts as we see them, and we believe we had an opportunity to do that.”
He also noted that Mnuchin was “generous with his time” and took about an hour for the meeting.
“We got to make clear that the industry is very supportive of tax reform this year and we [understood] that appropriate tax reform is a priority for the administration as well,” Dodge said.
He added that the retail executives were able to lay out their issues with the BAT tax “and the harm it poses to consumers and the industry.”
Representatives of PVH, VF, Chico’s and J.C. Penney could not be immediately reached for comment on the meeting.
As for why the retail industry is so supportive of the administration and its as-yet vague plans for tax reform — with only “broad strokes” having been discussed publicly — Dodge pointed to the high effective tax rate global brands are currently dealing with.
Assuming that tax reform from the Trump administration means a lower corporate tax rate, Dodge said capital could be used by retail companies for reinvestments, growth and hiring more people, “things that are good for the economy.”
Dodge went on to say retailers want the ability to “repatriate” a larger chunk of their global earnings, which are currently taxed by the U.S. He mentioned the possibility of moving to a “territorial” tax system, which Mnuchin has mentioned but left largely unexplained. Dodge said such a system would see companies pay tax in the territories where they earn “and nowhere else.”
As for the likelihood of tax reform happening this year or any additional specifics on reform proposals, Dodge admitted today’s conversation “didn’t get to that level.”
“Were eager to work with the administration to achieve tax reform,” Dodge said. “What we heard this morning is that the administration is eager to get it done.”
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