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Senate Republican Hatch sees tax revamp taking years

By Kim Dixon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A revamp of the tax code will take several years as the parties resolve fundamental disputes over how taxes influence behavior among businesses and individuals, the top Senate Republican tax-writer said on Monday.

Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, spelled out key differences between his party and Democrats including President Barack Obama as they begin talks on overhauling the complicated U.S. tax code.

"It's going to take a few years to do it if we can do it at all," Hatch told a group of conservatives in Washington on the eve of the first Senate Finance Committee hearing on the topic this year.

Hatch criticized Democrats who he said see the tax code as a tool to promote redistribution of wealth and said looking at the distribution of tax burdens was paramount.

Obama and lawmakers are debating a rewrite of the nation's tax laws and have begun by focusing on trying to reduce the 35 percent top corporate tax rate, among the world's highest.

Because of special deductions and tax breaks, many companies pay much lower rates, but these vary sharply by sector and corporation.

While there is consensus that the corporate statutory rate is too high relative to other countries, Democrats and Republicans are far apart on how to go about it lowering it.

Hatch, who also said it would be difficult to tackle corporate and individual tax reform separately, accused Democrats of trying to use the mantle of tax reform to raise revenue.

"We must reduce deficits and debt through spending reductions. Separate, we must promote tax reform," said Hatch, who is up for re-election in 2012.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress are now in a stand-off over spending cuts that threatens to shut down the federal government, though the immediate likelihood of that has eased in recent days.