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Trump Defers Payroll Tax, Extends Evictions Moratorium

Combining campaign promises with executive orders of questionable legality, President Trump Saturday said he is deferring payroll tax collections through the end of the year for pay of $100,00 or less and if re-elected, will “terminate” the tax.

In his second televised appearance at his Bedminster golf resort within 24 hours, Trump signed four executive orders he said are intended to provide vital relief for the unemployed and struggling renters and mortgaged homeowners in the absence of congressional action. The bare-bones proclamations went beyond filling in a few of the blanks left by stalled negotiations to implement measures like the payroll tax deferment actively opposed by the leadership of both political parties. “If I’m victorious on November third, I plan to forgive these taxes and make permanent cuts to the payroll tax,” Trump said, anticipating he would have the necessary votes on Capitol Hill for a measure with no currently significant support.

He continued, “In other words, I’ll extend it beyond the end of the year and terminate the tax. And so we’ll see what happens. Biden probably won’t be doing that you’ll have to ask him. I don’t think he knows.”

That evoked supporting laughter from the several dozen members of his golf club allowed to attend the event, having paid up to $350,000 apiece for the privilege of membership.

The extensions to the evictions moratorium covers about a third of those affected, and some state moratoriums have also already been extended. The student loan payment deferment without interest charges, for loans guaranteed by the federal government, lasts until the end of the year when the president said it may be extended again.

The extension of enhanced unemployment benefits would include an extra $400 a week, with $100 of that being paid by states, if the state chose to implement the extension. Among the many elements of virus relief not included in the president’s actions is additional support for states and local governments where budgets are strapped by the pandemic’s cuts to tax revenues.

President Trump again claimed progress in fighting the virus and in fact new confirmed infections nationwide are down 18% from the average two weeks earlier according to The New York Times. He made no reference to the 1,354 additional virus deaths in the latest 24 hours through Friday, bringing the total deaths to 161,500.

The executive orders may turn out to be little more than gestures soon to be rendered inoperative by Congress since no one is ruling out more negotiations and some eventual agreement next week. Federal courts may also prevent implementation of the orders, as has been the case in the past.

Members of Congress are anxious to begin their summer recess, vital to many who need to campaign for re-election. Under negotiation is a huge comprehensive piece of legislation that would cost, according to updated estimates, from $1.4 trillion to as much as $2.5 trillion covering expansion of virus testing, additional medical care reimbursements and many layers of economic and medical pandemic response provisions.

The executive orders were being prepared more than a month ago, according to one former White House insider, suggesting the stage was set for protracted negotiations long before they reached a temporary impasse.

Should employers find themselves able to actually defer tax payments they will not know if and how soon they will need to catch up once the deferments end after Election Day.

Trump combined campaign promises with his long repetition of his opposition to what he said were Democratic priorities, some incorrectly described. “So we’re going to be looking at income tax, we’re going to be looking at capital gains tax cuts on both and maybe substantial. And we’ll be reporting back fairly shortly on that. It’s big news big news but very important,” he said.

Answering a few questions from reporters, Trump cut the appearance short when one reporter said his reference to taking credit for the Obama-era Veterans Choice programme was false.

Colin Lambert

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