Tax Reform Top Priority for Voters: Poll

Any 2016 campaign talk will likely stress reforming the corporate tax code rather than individual taxes, an observer says.
Katie Kuehner-HebertJune 23, 2015

Tax reform is on the minds of voters on both sides of the aisle, according to a Morning Consult poll published Monday – and corporate tax reform will likely be a key issue in the 2016 presidential election.

Seventy-seven percent of the 2, 039 voters responding to the poll last week said that tax reform should be a priority for Congress and the Obama administration. That includes backing from 77% of Democrats and Republicans and 75% of independent voters.

Overall, 39% said the issue should be the most important priority – 45% of Republican voters think so, followed by 39% of Democrats and 35% of independents.

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However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Morning Consult earlier this month that comprehensive tax reform isn’t possible so long as President Obama is in office, suggesting an overhaul might not come until 2017 at the earliest. That puts pressure on the 2016 presidential candidates to talk about tax reform during the campaign.

Any campaign talk would likely emphasize reforming the corporate tax code over individual taxes, said Robert Pozen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former chairman of the mutual fund MFS Investment Management.

“The real chance for reform is on the corporate side,” Pozen told Morning Consult. “It’s hard to meet someone who thinks that the corporate tax system in the U.S. makes sense. Everyone agrees that it should be changed. The only problem, of course, is how it should be changed.”

The challenge will be finding a president who is “really willing to insist on trade-offs” when it comes to a tax rewrite, Pozen said. “You can’t have tax reform without there being some winners and some losers.”

Currently a number of GOP candidates — Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), and former Hewlett-Packard chief executive officer Carly Fiorina – have all signed the Americans for Tax Reform’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which states that signees will resist all tax increases. Paul also wrote in the Wall Street Journal last week that he would like to institute a flat 14.5% tax for both individuals and businesses if he becomes president.

But House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a former vice presidential candidate, has said he wants to make comprehensive tax reform a central campaign issue, hoping his committee makes progress on reform to put increasing pressure on candidates. Ryan has maintained that an overhaul is essential to improving the U.S. economy.

Morning Consult’s poll was conducted from June 12 through June 15 among a national sample of voters, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.