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Obama administration pushes business tax reform in Congress

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration on Tuesday said it saw room for compromise with Congress on a potential overhaul of the business tax code, but a top Republican lawmaker said the two sides remained at loggerheads over taxes on small companies.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew appeared before lawmakers to explain a White House budget proposal that would raise taxes on the wealthy and create new taxes on international companies to increase spending in areas like highways and education.

Much of that agenda has little chance of approval in this Congress, whose Republican majority is generally opposed to tax increases. But Lew said business tax reform was an area ripe for a bipartisan deal.

“I believe, as does the president, that there is plenty of opportunity for bipartisan cooperation, … starting with business tax reform,” Lew said in testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee.Paul Ryan, the Republican who chairs the committee, said the administration’s budget proposals to simplify tax filing were “a step in the right direction.”

He also said there was room for compromise on a measure to extend tax credits to low-income childless adults.

But Ryan said the administration’s proposals would not do enough to help small companies, particularly those that pay taxes through their owners’ individual returns.

“It just doesn’t cut it,” Ryan said.

The Obama administration proposes lowering corporate tax rates by eliminating a range of deductions, but it does not want to reduce rates for companies that pay via individual returns, a class of businesses known as “pass throughs.”

Ryan did not say Republican support for business tax reform hinged on lower rates for pass throughs, but he said any deal must carve out more benefits for this group.

"This committee is not going to leave them behind," Ryan said.

(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Bill Trott, Dan Grebler and Lisa Von Ahn)

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