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CEOs May Endorse Tax Plan Costing Them Money, Engler Says

Some U.S. chief executive officers may ultimately support a rewrite of the corporate tax system though it would cost their companies money, said John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable, a Washington group that represents CEOs.

A revenue-neutral overhaul of the U.S. tax code, as the group seeks, would mean that some companies would win and others would lose.

“To get this done, you’re really going to have to think about what’s the better system for the country,” Engler, a former Republican governor of Michigan, told reporters today.

He spoke as the Business Roundtable announced a national media campaign to build support for overhauling the corporate income tax system. The group, whose members include executives from Darden Restaurants Inc., Whirlpool Corp. and MetLife Inc., wants Congress to reduce the corporate tax rate to 25 percent from 35 percent and eliminate most taxes on U.S. companies’ foreign income.

Paying for that rate reduction would require eliminating or curtailing corporate tax breaks. Once the details become clear and companies can calculate the potential effects, coalitions may fracture.

“Most things are on the table for conversation,” Engler said.

That “fairly dramatic simplification” would have broader economic benefits, Engler said, even for companies that lose some tax breaks as part of what he called a “short-term dislocation.”

Lawmakers in both parties have endorsed the idea of a revenue-neutral corporate tax overhaul although they haven’t discussed details.

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