Gary Cohn lays out what Trump wants from tax reform

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Gary Cohn Evan Vucci/AP Images

Gary Cohn, the top economic adviser to President Donald Trump, is considered to be the man driving the White House’s push to overhaul the tax code.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Cohn laid out the administration’s priorities on tax reform — along with his thoughts on the president’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The ideas Cohn detailed are similar in broad strokes to the one-page statement of principles released by the White House in April. But there were a few notable differences in Cohn’s interview.

Here’s a quick rundown of what the administration wants:

  • Preserve only three individual deductions: Cohn told the FT that the GOP plan would keep popular deductions for mortgage interest, charitable giving, and retirement contributions. The mortgage-interest and charitable-giving deductions were included in the tax principles released in April, and the White House clarified that it also wanted to keep the retirement deduction a few days later. Cohn also said Trump wants to double the standard deduction, also the same as the White House said in April.
  • Eliminate the estate tax: This tax currently only applies if assets given to heirs total more than $US5.49 million.
  • Get the corporate tax rate “ as low as possible”: Cohn’s comments came in response to a direct question about whether the corporate rate would be lowered to 15%. That number has long been a target for Trump, but there have been reports that the final plan may include a higher corporate rate. Cohn did not reiterate promises of 15%.
  • Allow a one-time repatriation of overseas cash: The administration previously said this would happen, and Trump said it would come at a 10% rate. Cohn would not commit to that level, and the proposed 10% would be almost double the rate the last time there was a one-time repatriation, in 2004.

While much of what Cohn said lines up with the original proposals by the White House, some of the elements he left omitted raise eyebrows. Not committing to a rate for corporate taxes or the repatriation tax leaves significant question marks for businesses for what to expect from the plan.

Despite the lack of details, Cohn said that Trump will begin to push the tax cut plan next week. He said the “president’s agenda and calendar is going to revolve around tax reform.”