President Trump suggested in new remarks Friday that he would rather not have a higher fourth tax bracket in the Republican tax reform, but that the GOP may pursue it if needed to ensure that the tax package favors the middle class.
"I'd rather not have" a higher fourth tax bracket, Trump said in brief comments from an upcoming interview with Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo released Friday. "It might not happen."
"The only reason I would have ... is if for any reason I feel the middle class is not being properly taken care of," Trump added.
Republicans have left the door open to a higher tax rate on high incomes when the tax-writing committees go to draft legislation. In the framework they released in September, there were three brackets with the highest rate being 25 percent. They haven't specified the income levels for the brackets. Under today's code, the top bracket kicks in at $470,700 for married couples and entails a 39.6 percent tax rate.
Appearing on CBS Friday morning, House Speaker Paul Ryan suggested that the House bill would include a fourth bracket in order to limit tax cuts for wealthy individuals. "The fourth bracket that the president and others are talking about that we're going to do, we're working on," he said.
While keeping the top individual tax rate closer to its current level could reduce the package's tax cuts for high earners, there are other provisions that would provide breaks for wealthy families, such as a special new tax rate for business income that flows through to owners' individual returns and the elimination of the setate tax.
A higher fourth bracket, though, could be used to offset greater tax benefits for middle-class families, such as the child tax credit that Republicans say they want to expand. Democrats have criticized the GOP plan for not clearly spelling out how low- and middle-income families would get tax cuts.
"We're adjusting so that there's no way that the middle class doesn't greatly benefit," Trump said. "Every once in a while there's a method under which, you know, it could be that some people in the middle class won't benefit as much as we want them to benefit and we're making certain adjustments."
In past years, Republicans have fought to lower the top rate.
House Republicans aim to finish writing legislation once the fiscal 2018 budget has passed both chambers. The Senate approved its version of the budget resolution Thursday night.