Ben Carson distanced himself from his rivals in the GOP presidential race by advocating for an overhaul of the federal tax code that includes eliminating every tax deductions on the books — including for mortgage interest payments and charitable givings.
Mr. Carson has yet to put forward the details of his tax proposal, though he has said he supports a flat tax on individual income of somewhere between 10 percent and 15 percent that adopts the concept of tithing in Christian churches, where parishioners are encourage to contribute 10 percent of their income.
Speaking Wednesday at Liberty University in Virginia, Mr. Carson provided additional details of his vision for the federal tax code, saying, “You are going to get rid of all the deductions and all the loopholes.”
That puts Mr. Carson at odds with his closest rivals, including Donald Trump and Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, who protect the deductions for mortgage interest payments and charitable giving under their proposals.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul also have outlined plans that would keep those deductions in the federal tax code.
Mr. Carson said doing away with the mortgage interest deduction and charitable givings will be offset by the money that people keep as the result of the reduced tax rates under his plan.
“They will have so much more money in their pocket, they’ll be easily able to pay their mortgage,” he said, before pushing back against the idea that “all the churches will dry up” if the charitable deduction is taken off the books.
“What they don’t realize is that there were lots of churches in America before 1913 when the federal income tax went into place and as people have more money in their pocket, they will actually put more money in the plate when the tithe comes by — not less,” he said. “It is not going to be a problem.”
Mr. Carson has never held political office, and he is running neck-and-neck with Mr. Trump for the top spot in the GOP race in national polls. The retired neurosurgeon is leading in Iowa, home of the Feb. 1 caucuses that sound the starting gun in the nomination fight.
Polling also finds that Mr. Carson, a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, is the top pick of evangelical and born-again Christian voters.
A national poll from Fox News and a survey out of Iowa from CNN/ORC showed that Mr. Carson is winning three out of 10 white evangelical voters, besting the rest of the field.
The 64-year-old made the trip to Liberty University, which bills itself as the largest Christian University in the world, less than 24 hours after taking part in the fourth GOP debate in Milwaukee.
Political analysts said Mr. Carson delivered another respectable performance on Tuesday where he defended his autobiography following news reports that raised questions about whether he embellished parts of his inspirational story.
Mr. Carson said he has “no problem being vetted” and said that Hillary Rodham Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, would be exposed as a liar if she was held to a similar standard by the news media.
At Liberty University on Wednesday, Mr. Carson talked about the role that religion has played in his life and the important role it played in the founding of the United States.
A note creationist, he also dismissed the Big Bang theory as nonsense and vowed to stand up for traditional marriage.
“We are going to have to have a president who is willing to work with the legislative branch to put things back in order again — specifically we need legislation to protect the religious freedoms of people who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman,” Mr. Carson said.