The National Retail Federation (NRF) urged Congress to focus on updating the existing federal income tax system through comprehensive reform rather than moving toward a consumption tax. Under either approach, Congress should reject a proposed $1 trillion border adjustment tax (BAT) that would drive up prices for consumers and cost the economy jobs, NRF said.


“The most important aspect of any tax reform measure is its impact on the economy, jobs and the consumer,” said NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations David French, noting that consumer spending represents two-thirds of the economy and that retail supports one out of four U.S. jobs.


“Tax reform that shifts the burden of the corporate tax to the consumer would present an unnecessary risk to our nation’s economy,” French said. “Instead, we support a reform of the current income tax structure by providing a broad base and low rates. We believe that approach, rather than a shift toward a consumption tax, would bring the greatest economic efficiency and stimulate economic growth without causing the economic dislocations inherent in the transition to a new tax system.”


French’s comments came in a letter to the House Ways and Means Committee, which is scheduled to hold a hearing today (May 18) on “How Tax Reform Will Grow Our Economy and Create Jobs.” The hearing is expected to focus on the “Better Way” tax reform proposal sponsored by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), and committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas).


The Ryan-Brady plan would transition the United States from its long-standing income tax system toward a consumption tax system. French said studies conducted for NRF show that alone would cause retail spending and employment to decline for an estimated six years. The plan also includes a proposal for a 20% border adjustment tax on imports, which French said would cause an even steeper decline in spending. NRF is leading the retail industry’s opposition to the BAT proposal, which is expected to be the subject of an additional hearing next week.


“We believe there are better options for tax reform that would achieve economic growth and not shift the burden to the consumer,” French said. He recommended that lawmakers consider as examples the 1986 Tax Reform Act enacted during the Reagan administration and the Tax Reform Act of 2014, which was proposed by former Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Michigan) but never saw passage.


NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries.