Britain's politicians could learn from Donald Trump's tax cutting instincts

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Donald Trump has ambitious plans for corporate tax in Ameria - AP

On April 29, Donald Trump will have been in the White House for 100 days. It has been a period during which the new president has discovered the limitations of his power to deliver many of the promises he made on the campaign trail.

One of the most eye-catching was a pledge to cut taxes to historically low levels and yesterday he set out his plans to achieve just that.

Whether he will be any more successful in doing so than he has so far been in imposing immigration controls on Muslims, building a border wall with Mexico or overhauling his predecessor’s healthcare policy remains to be seen. But this is as much about direction of travel as anything else. Even if Mr Trump gets half of what he is trying to do through Congress he will have engineered a massive tax boost for US businesses and earners.

While the Americans are moving in the direction of lower taxes there is a risk here that we may go the other way

Among the measures is a dramatic cut in corporation tax from 40 per cent to 15 per cent, combined with incentives for US firms to return capital assets held offshore to avoid the current rates.

Given the impact this would have on US Treasury revenues, many economists suspect this is an opening gambit by Mr Trump in what will be difficult negotiations with Congress – even a Republican-led one – to get his policy through.

However, as a deal maker, the president will eventually get something approximating what he has been after.

Is Theresa May planning to raise taxes? Credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images

There are lessons here for Britain as we prepare to go to the polls. While the Americans are moving in the direction of lower taxes there is a risk here that we may go the other way.

The Conservatives have declined to repeat the promise of no tax rises made in their 2015 manifesto and Philip Hammond, the Chancellor – who came unstuck when he tried to renege on that pledge – evidently does not want his hands tied by election guarantees. But that suggests the Tories may be contemplating putting up taxes, otherwise why not reaffirm the pledge?

Mr Trump has moved the debate in America on to the territory of tax cuts as a boost to the economy. Here, the receipts from corporation tax have risen markedly since it was reduced from 28 per cent to 20 per cent, helping to cut public borrowing.

Yet all the opposition parties believe in taxing people and business more: indeed, Labour’s entire strategy is built around increasing corporation tax. This could be the first general election campaign for many years where tax cuts are not on offer from one of the major parties.

 

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