White House pushing 'crazy and strange' tax breaks for restaurant meals and baseball games during pandemic
Photo: AFP

The Trump administration is considering new tax breaks to encourage attendance at sporting events, travel and entertainment despite the continued spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Major League Baseball is moving forward with plans for a shortened season, but some star players are opting out of playing, teams have already been forced to cancel workouts and fans won't even be allowed to attend games at first, but the White House wants to encourage ticket sales, reported The Washington Post.

“It’s a little weird to see the administration discuss something like a tax credit, when essentially no team has announced a policy on even bringing fans back to the ballpark this year,” said one official involved in baseball operations at a Major League Baseball franchise.

President Donald Trump and White House economic advisers are pushing tax breaks to push Americans back into normal economic activities, despite the risks, but even some tax-cutting conservatives doubt how effective those measures would be.

“Reducing the after-tax cost of taking a vacation is not going to address people’s fears of getting the virus while on vacation,” said Kyle Pomerleau, tax policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute. “That is the fundamental issue facing these industries, and what the White House needs to understand.”

The president has endorsed tax credits and reimbursements for travel, employee meals and other entertainment expenditures, even as some states and local governments are moving again to shut down beaches, casinos, gyms, movie theaters and restaurants as the virus resurges.

“In preparation for a phase four package, the White House continues to review pro-growth economic measures that provide tax and regulatory relief and incentivize employers to bring back their hardworking employees safely to good-paying jobs,” White House spokesman Judd Deere told the Post in an email statement.

Senior White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, in particular, has been pushing for entertainment tax credits, but not all Trump allies agree.

“There are people in the administration who want to do something for the economy but are struggling to come up with something that isn’t in their usual playbook — which is tax cuts,” said one former senior White House economic official. “It’s almost like they are on the battlefield getting shot at and they’re worrying instead about how to feed themselves in a few weeks.”

Even some industry lobbyists have warned White House officials the tax deductions won't matter if Americans are too afraid to go out and enjoy themselves.

"[Industry groups] are not going to say, ‘Don’t give us a tax break,’ but they’re also being clear that a tax incentive for industry is not going to resolve their issues,” said one individual who's in communication with the White House. “The idea that a small tax incentive is going to supersede the threat to people’s lives and livelihoods is a crazy and strange way to think about it.”