Prospects for Treasury’s Top Tax Role Taking Shape

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By Allyson Versprille and Laura Davison

An economist and a professor are among those being considered for the Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for tax policy post, a source familiar with the proceedings told Bloomberg BNA.

Alex Brill, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who focuses on tax issues, and David M. Schizer, dean emeritus and Harvey R. Miller professor of law and economics at Columbia Law School, have both been interviewed for the role, said the source, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the information.

A Republican aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Trump transition team has been facing hurdles in finding someone to fill the position. “It can be difficult to find candidates interested in the job because the Trump team is asking for a four-year commitment to the post,” the aide said. “And anyone who joins the administration has to agree to a five-year lobbying ban after leaving the government.”

Ideal Candidates?

The lobbying ban may make economists, professors and business people ideal candidates for the position. President-elect Donald Trump has picked several nominees from the corporate world for his cabinet, including former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker and hedge fund founder Steve Mnuchin for Treasury secretary.

Several tax lobbyists who asked to remain anonymous said they have heard speculation mentioning Jim Carter, a former lobbyist for manufacturing company Emerson Electric Co., as a possibility for the role. Carter is currently overseeing the Trump transition’s efforts on a tax overhaul.

“My personal view is that Jim’s not likely to be under consideration for the job despite the fact that he’s working on tax reform issues for the transition,” the first source said. “He’ll probably end up in the administration but not in that spot.”

The Trump transition team didn’t respond to requests for comment. Tara Bradshaw, a spokeswoman for Mnuchin, said: “We are currently focused on Treasury Secretary Nominee Steven Mnuchin’s confirmation hearing.”

Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Jan. 9 that the transition team was focused first on filling cabinet-level and deputy secretary positions before assistant secretary roles, “with the exception of a couple here and there.”

“But that doesn’t mean that those conversations aren’t taking place through the various departments,” he said.

As a reference, the last Republican president, George W. Bush—who like Trump was pushing for significant tax changes early in his presidency—nominated Mark Weinberger for the Treasury role on Feb. 5, 2001, 16 days after he was sworn in.

Greg Jenner, who has served as both acting assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy and deputy assistant secretary for tax policy, told Bloomberg BNA that whoever fills the role must have practical experience. “The problem with this position is that it’s a blend of policy and practicality, and if you don’t get somebody who can go beyond the theoretical to understand what something really means in the real world, that might be the wrong person for the job.”

With assistance from Kaustuv Basu and Aaron Lorenzo in Washington.

To contact the reporters on this story: Allyson Versprille in Washington at aversprille@bna.com and Laura Davison in Washington at ldavison@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Meg Shreve at mshreve@bna.com

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