Exclusive: Retail CEOs to meet Trump in bid to kill U.S. border tax

U.S. President Donald Trump will meet on Wednesday with the chief executives of eight large retailers, including Target Corp (TGT.N), Best Buy Co Inc (BBY.N) and J.C. Penney Company Inc (JCP.N), to discuss tax reform and infrastructure improvements, according to people with knowledge of the meeting.

A White House official confirmed Trump will meet with retail industry CEOs on Wednesday morning to discuss economic growth.

The meeting will include Target CEO Brian Cornell, Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly, Gap Inc (GPS.N) CEO Art Peck, Autozone Inc (AZO.N) CEO William Rhodes, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc (WBA.O) CEO Stefano Pessina, J.C. Penney Company Inc (JCP.N) CEO Marvin Ellison, Jo-Ann Stores LLC [NEDLEJ.UL] CEO Jill Soltau and Tractor Supply Co (TSCO.O) CEO Gregory Sandfort, according to the people familiar with the matter.

This is the first time well-known retail CEOs will descend on Washington as a group to try to make the case that a controversial proposal to tax all imports will raise consumer prices and hurt their businesses.

Their input has more urgency as Trump is finalizing his own tax plan that he plans to unveil in the coming weeks.

The group will also meet on Wednesday with the heads of the two tax-writing Congressional committees — Kevin Brady, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Senator Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Reuters reported on Monday.

Brady and Speaker Paul Ryan are leading a House Republican push that would cut corporate income tax to 20 percent from 35 percent, exclude export revenue from taxable income and impose a 20 percent tax on imports. Companies that rely heavily on imports, such as retailers, automakers and refiners say a border tax will outweigh the benefit of a lower headline corporate tax.

“Given the retail industry’s position as America’s largest private-sector employer, retailers welcome the opportunity to speak with President Trump about policies that will spur job creation and economic growth here in the United States,” said Brian Dodge, a spokesman for the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

The trade group is leading the industry’s effort to oppose House Republicans’ proposal for a border adjustability tax, running a coalition of more than 120 companies and trade organizations including Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N).

Representatives for all eight retailers headed to Washington did not respond to requests for comment.

Trump has voiced some concern about the House tax proposal calling it “too complicated.” But the White House also said previously that a border tax on goods from Mexico is one option under review to pay for a wall along the nation’s southern border.

The prospect of a big import tax is also pitting some of the largest U.S. companies against one another. A group of major exporters including Boeing Co (BA.N), General Electric Co (GE.N) and Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) have formed their own coalition to support the import tax.

Retailers have become the most vocal opponents to the proposal, saying a 20 percent tax on imported goods would cause prices to increase for consumers and erase any profits the companies currently make. Nearly all of the nation’s clothing, shoes and electronics are imported into the United States, as well as foods that cannot be grown domestically, like coffee and palm oil.

The largest U.S. electronics retailer, Best Buy, for example, has circulated a flyer to lawmakers, which cites an analyst forecast that a 20 percent tax would wipe out the company’s projected annual net income of $1 billion and turn it into a $2 billion loss.

SOURCE: By Ginger Gibson | WASHINGTON- Reuters 2/15/2017

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