For years, President Obama has been lamenting the sad state of the U.S. tax code. Like many in Washington, Obama has been particularly vocal in his concern about the 35-percent corporate rate, the highest statutory rate for business in the developed world.
But corporate America appears to have given up hope that Obama will do anything about it. Just take a look at the latest survey of big-company tax officers by the D.C. law firm Miller & Chevalier.
For the first time since the firm began conducting the survey in 2007, not a single respondent predicted that tax reform would be enacted in the coming year. And only one in four see much hope of movement in the final years of the Obama administration. Most of the 129 tax officers surveyed either were "unsure" when legislation might advance or predicted movement only after the next presidential election.
Meanwhile, Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) replaced Obama in the survey as the person who "will have the most significant impact on tax policy" in the coming year -- "likely stemming from [Obama's] lack of prioritization of tax issues," the survey says. Camp, who chairs the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, recently released a plan for a comprehensive tax overhaul that has won praise from analysts across the political spectrum. From Obama, it's been pretty much crickets.
Surely the administration is lending support behind the scenes, right? After all, even Democrats see some gestures in Camp's plan at building support across the aisle.
But, no, only about a quarter of corporate tax officers see any flicker of interest. Nearly half say the administration will play "no material role" in advancing tax reform this year.
The respondents by no means think the lack of action is all Obama's fault. Indeed, they are more likely to blame congressional gridlock due to divided government and the fact that this is a congressional election year. They say the the change in leadership in the Senate Finance Committee hasn't helped matters (the longtime chairman, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), is now ambassador to China). Nor has Camp's status as a lame duck (he is expected to surrender his chairmanship to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in January).
What would help? Seven in 10 respondents think it would be useful if Republicans took control of the Senate. Theoretically, that would let them pass Camp's plan through both chambers of Congress and challenge Obama to act. But only about a third of respondents think the GOP will indeed capture a Senate majority this fall.
What's their chief worry in the meantime? "Enactment of revenue offsets without adoption of a competitive tax system and/or competitive tax rates."
In other words, in the absence of rate-lowering tax reform, corporate tax officers are worried that lawmakers will go after their tax breaks to raise money to pay for other priorities.