President Trump recently walked back consideration of capital gains indexing and a payroll tax cut, less than 24 hours after signaling his support for both.

Payroll Tax Cut
Reports on Capitol Hill had begun swirling recently that the Trump administration was considering cutting payroll taxes.

“We’re looking at various tax reductions,” Trump told reporters at the White House on August 20. “I have been thinking about payroll taxes for a long time,” he added. “A lot of people would like to see that.”

However, White House staff swiftly denied that any payroll tax cut was under consideration, according to several reports.

Along those lines, Michael Zona, communications director for Senate Finance Committee (SFC) Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told Wolters Kluwer on August 20 that no such discussions were occurring between the SFC majority and the president. “Chairman Grassley has not discussed a potential payroll tax cut with the Administration,” Zona told Wolters Kluwer.

Payroll taxes are used to fund certain social programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Generally, payroll taxes are paid primarily through the wages and salaries of employees, as noted by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. Amid recent reports that the U.S. economy could be heading toward a recession, cutting payroll taxes could potentially benefit middle-income taxpayers and bolster consumer spending.

On August 20, Trump disputed the notion that a recession could be around the bend. Additionally, Trump told reporters that any consideration of a payroll tax cut is unrelated to mostly Democratic claims of an impending recession. In that vein, Zona told Wolters Kluwer on August 20 that “[a]t this point, recession seems more of a political wish by Democrats than an economic reality.”

Indexing Capital Gains to Inflation
Further, Trump confirmed to reporters at the White House on August 20 that he is still considering indexing capital gains to inflation. Lately, lawmakers have become increasingly vocal concerning their differing viewpoints on the matter, both as to tax policy and legality.

“We’ve been talking about indexing [capital gains to inflation] for a long time,” Trump said. “It can be done directly by me…I can do it directly,” he said, referencing a recent uptick in debate between Republican and Democratic lawmakers on the legality of such an executive move.

No Tax Cuts, No Indexing
Then on August 21, Trump told reporters at the White House that “I’m not looking at a tax cut now; we don’t need it. We have a strong economy.”

Additionally, Trump followed up his initial assertion of authority to circumvent Congress on the tax policy issue by stating on August 21 that if he wanted to unilaterally index capital gains to inflation, he would need a letter from the Attorney General.

However, the longstanding Republican and Democratic debate as to whether the executive branch has authority to index capital gains to inflation appears to be moot, at least for the time being.

“I’m not looking to do indexing,” Trump said on August 21. “I’ve studied indexing for a long time. I want tax [cuts] for middle-class workers. I think indexing is probably better for the upper income groups; I’m not looking to do that.”