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In Pa., Trump touts truckers as winners in his tax plan. Are they?

President Trump will speak to a 1,000-person crowd packed with truckers Wednesday night in Pennsylvania as he touts the benefits they will see under his tax plan. An independent analyst sharply disputed the idea that middle-class drivers would be the big beneficiaries.

President Donald Trump listens as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger speaks during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump listens as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger speaks during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)Read moreEvan Vucci

WASHINGTON — When President Trump promotes his tax reform plan just outside Harrisburg Wednesday evening, he plans to point to truck drivers as the kind of blue-collar workers who will benefit.

The 1,000-person crowd will be packed with truckers, an administration official said, there will be trucks in the hangar where the president speaks with "some pretty cool wraps on them" and Trump plans to tell the story of a "family-owned" Pennsylvania trucking company.

An independent analyst, though, sharply disputed the idea that middle-class truck drivers would be the big beneficiaries.

Some might see lower taxes, and there might be a few examples of small-business trucking operations that benefit — but they would the exceptions, said Mark Mazur, director of the non-partisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.

"Unless you think truckers are in the top 1 percent, it's hard to believe that all these benefits will go to truckers," Mazur said.

Republicans have sharply disputed the center's analysis, saying it relies on sweeping assumptions and is based on a tax plan that is still being spelled out, and a senior administration official touted the role truckers will play in tonight's event.

"Really, truckers are in many ways the lifeblood of our economy," he told reporters Tuesday, briefing the media on the condition of anonymity. "Truckers will be major beneficiaries of the president's tax plan."

Among the ways, he said, are individual income tax rate cuts that the administration says will help the middle class, cuts to tax rates for "pass-through" companies that make up the vast majority of American businesses and an overall economic boost that will fuel more demand for truckers' services.

Ending a tax on the country's largest inheritances — dubbed the "death tax" by Republicans — will also benefit family-owned businesses such as the Pennsylvania trucking company Trump plans to highlight, the official said.

The ideas are all appealing to the industry's main lobbying force, the American Trucking Associations, which plans to send a large contingent to Wednesday's event.

"ATA supports President Trump's call for tax reform — which would reduce the extraordinarily high rates our industry pays, letting us invest more in our drivers, technicians and equipment," the group's president said in a statement reported by Transport Topics.

Mazur, however, said relatively few trucking companies stand to benefit, and those that do would mostly be very large.

When it comes to the estate tax, for example, couples only pay tax on the value of their estates above $11 million. That means fewer than 1 percent of estates are affected each year.

"Is it possible that there's a family-owned trucking company," that could be hit by the tax? Mazur asked. "That is possible. But that is not the norm."

Similarly, he said most smaller pass-through companies already pay taxes at or below the 25 percent rate Trump has proposed. Typically only the largest now pay more and would therefore see a cut if that rate drops, Mazur said.

Similarly, the Tax Policy Center found that most of the benefits of the individual rate cuts would flow to the top. In 2027, the group projected, 80 percent of the benefits would go to the top 1 percent of taxpayers.

Republicans have dismissed Mazur's analysis, and the Trump administration say nearly all middle class taxpayers will see lower taxes from the plan.