Trump backtracks on tax hike for the rich

Reuters with CNBC.com
Taxing times for candidates
Taxing times for candidates

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Monday backtracked on his remarks about raising taxes on wealthy Americans, saying the rich might simply get a smaller tax cut than he originally proposed.

On Sunday, Trump had said taxes on the wealthy would "go up a little bit" once his broad tax policy proposals, which include tax cuts for rich Americans, were negotiated with Congress — an apparent break with traditional Republican support for lower taxes in all income brackets.

"The thing I'm going to do is make sure the middle class gets good tax breaks," the presumptive GOP presidential nominee told NBC's "Meet the Press." "For the wealthy, I think, frankly, it's going to go up. And you know what, it really should go up."

But on Monday, Trump denied that he meant to imply he was willing to raise taxes for people in higher income brackets from their current level, saying he had been referring to potential adjustments to his own tax policy proposal.

"I may have to increase it on the wealthy. I'm not going to allow it to be increased on the middle class," Trump said on CNN. "Now, if I increase it on the wealthy, that means they're still going to be paying less than they are paying now. I'm talking about increasing it from my tax proposal."

The proposal, released in September, included broad tax breaks for businesses and households, with the highest income tax rate reduced to 25 percent from the current 39.6 percent rate.

Trump, a billionaire real estate developer, said on Monday that lowering taxes on the middle class and businesses was his priority.

"I'm not talking about a tax increase. I'm talking about a tremendous tax decrease, OK?" Trump said on the Fox Business Network, saying proposals always change in negotiations with Congress but that he was committed to cutting taxes.

"I'm not talking a raise from where they are now; I'm talking about a raise from my low proposal," he said.

Before Trump's clarification, anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, who has backed Trump's promised across-the-board tax cut, endorsed the plan Monday.

"Some people who organize their lives around tax credits and tax deductions might see some increase," Norquist told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

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Said Norquist, in a statement emailed to CNBC after his "Squawk Box" interview on Monday but before Trump's revised comment: "Trump's tax cut would be a tax cut for every American."

He added: "Because Trump takes the top personal rate from 39.6 percent to 25 percent and the corporate rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, there is no way anyone would see an actual tax increase."

Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform asks Republican candidates to sign a no-new-taxes pledge. "Grover supports Trump's tax plan as written down on paper," a spokesperson for the organization said after Norquist's CNBC appearance.

"What [Trump] added in this was ... when you're the president you're not the king. You have to go get Congress to pass a tax cut," Norquist told "Squawk Box."

Norquist, who generally does not formally endorse candidates, said Trump has not yet signed the Americans for Tax Reform's pledge but his campaign and his public statements indicate he would.

— CNBC's Matthew J. Belvedere contributed to this story.