Feb. 9, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

The Baucus-Camp Tax Road Show Faces Obstacles

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
From left, Camp and Baucus speak with Mrs. G TV and Appliances president Debbie Schaeffer about the store’s business during a stop on their tax overhaul tour in New Jersey.

Still, “Max and Dave,” as the chairmen are calling themselves, attempted to make the best of their visit to Mrs. G TV and Appliances, which sits on a stretch of Route 1, adjacent to a parcel that currently houses an abandoned diner.

Mrs. G’s regularly hosts events and cooking classes in the showroom, which features a functioning kitchen. Baucus and Camp were treated to a frittata, chocolate-dipped strawberries and — when in Jersey — blueberry smoothies.

The lawmakers sat around a kitchen counter with owner Debbie Schaeffer and Maguerite Mount, the managing director of the firm that handles Mrs. G’s outside accounting and tax preparation.

Inside the Beltway, the lawmakers have gotten into the procedural weeds, as was the case during a joint appearance July 18 at the Economic Club of Washington. Camp said then that the two men would work together to determine which chamber should move first.

July 26 was the deadline for senators to submit suggestions for preserving tax preferences to the Finance panel, as requested by Baucus and his ranking member, Utah Republican Orrin G. Hatch. But the proposals some senators decided to make public only seemed to highlight the partisan divide on taxes, with Democrats arguing to preserve tax credits for child care and earned income and Republicans making the case for lower taxes on businesses and eliminating the estate tax.

Baucus hopes to mark up a Senate version of the plan in the fall. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. suggested last week that a tax overhaul is not on his floor schedule. Reid also pushed back against the idea of a tax overhaul that doesn’t raise substantial new revenue — on the order of the nearly trillion dollars over a decade called for in the Senate Democratic budget.

Reid’s comments set off an exchange of statements, with Baucus saying, “I have always said that I think the Senate bill needs to raise revenue” and top Senate Republicans releasing a letter calling for revenue neutrality. But that debate was entirely absent from the trip to New Jersey.

It didn’t go entirely as planned: Baucus was late to arrive from D.C. thanks to mechanical difficulties with his Amtrak train. And even at a friendly venue like Mrs. G’s, there were signs of the difficulty both men face as they look to eliminate most tax deductions while lowering overall rates for individuals and businesses.

“We certainly wouldn’t want to give up our depreciation, but would relish simplification of depreciation rules,” Mount told reporters, referencing tax laws that allow businesses to deduct some business expenses.

Mount, however, got to the crux of the problem when asked about which tax preferences should be eliminated as part of an overhaul.

“I think that’s a difficult question to answer,” Mount said. “Businesses, you have to realize, the deductions that businesses are able to take, are deductions that is their cost of doing business. They’re directly related to how they generate their revenue. ... Perhaps somewhere in the area of some of the more softer business expenses you could consider giving up in exchange for lower rates,” Mount eventually conceded.

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