President Trump has promised a major rewrite of the U.S. tax system, and when he released an outline of his plan last week, his top officials promised the administration would fight to make that vision a reality.
Trump’s administration, however, has yet to pick the officials who would be chiefly responsible for negotiating a tax deal with lawmakers on Trump’s behalf.
In particular, the president has not put forward any names for the post of assistant secretary for tax policy, an office that was instrumental for presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush as they successfully passed tax cuts early in their administrations.
The vacant offices of the deputy assistant secretaries for tax analysis and international tax affairs could also prove to be obstacles for Trump as he seeks to move major tax legislation through Congress.
“It helps a lot to have somebody whose full-time job is looking at the tax issues and not everything else that’s going on in the world,” said Pam Olson, who held that post in Bush’s administration from 2002 to 2004.
That assessment, shared by lobbyists and tax policy experts, is at odds with the assurances given by Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin and other administration officials, who have frequently pointed out that the administration has several dozen career staffers working on proposals in the Treasury Department’s Office of Tax Analysis.
“We have over 100 people in the tax department, and we’ve been running numbers, you know, for several months,” Mnuchin said Monday at a conference in Beverly Hills.
Dean Zerbe is alliantgroup’s National Managing Director based in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office. Prior to joining alliantgroup, Zerbe was Senior Counsel and Tax Counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance. He worked closely with then-Chairman of the Finance Committee, Senator Charles Grassley, on tax legislation. During his tenure on the Finance Committee, Zerbe was intimately involved with nearly every major piece of tax legislation that was signed into law, including the 2001 and 2003 tax reconciliation bills, the JOBS bill in 2004 (corporate tax reform) and the Pension Protection Act. Zerbe is a frequent speaker and author on the outlook for short-term and long-term changes in tax policy, as well as ways accounting firms can help their clients lower their tax bill.