While it has only been a year since passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), it’s clear the law largely is both a debacle and a boondoggle. Below are the five takeaways about the legacy and continuing effect of the TCJA.
1. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will substantially increase income, wealth, and racial inequality.
2. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will continue to substantially increase the deficit.
3. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is not significantly boosting growth or jobs.
4. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act continues to be very unpopular.
5. Despite the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s lack of popularity and ill effects, many Republican lawmakers are calling for even more tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations.
Democratic leaders have proposed rules to be adopted in the next Congress, and many of them, such as eliminating the requirement for “dynamic scoring,” are very sensible. But one of the proposed rules is problematic because it would make it harder to raise revenue.
With most of the results of the 2018 midterm elections in, the broad landscape for federal tax policy over the next couple years is coming into view. Democratic control of the House and Republican control of the Senate means a significant tax overhaul is unlikely, but minor tax changes may happen. And the run-up to the 2020 presidential election will force more robust debate over the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) and what aspects of the legislation should be repealed, reformed, or built upon.
Even though income derived from capital gains receives a special lower tax rate and is therefore undertaxed, some proponents of lower taxes on the wealthy claim that capital gains are overtaxed due to the effects of inflation. But existing tax breaks for capital gains more than compensate for any problem related to inflation. Congress should repeal or restrict special tax provisions for capital gains rather than creating even more breaks.
Since 2000, Congress has passed several rounds of tax cuts that have increased the federal deficit by nearly $6 trillion and disproportionately benefited the top 20 percent of households, which received nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of the value of all tax changes.
Since 2000, tax cuts have reduced federal revenue by trillions of dollars and disproportionately benefited well-off households. From 2001 through 2018, significant federal tax changes have reduced revenue by $5.1 trillion, with nearly two-thirds of that flowing to the richest fifth of Americans.
The absurdity of blaming poor and moderate-income people for their circumstances is close to running its course as an effective political tool, particularly as some elected officials more boldly assert…
One of the most repeated myths in state tax policy is called “millionaire tax flight,” where millionaires are allegedly fleeing states with high income tax rates for states with lower rates. This myth has been used as an argument in state tax debates for years but Cristobal Young argues in his book, “The Myth of the Millionaire Tax Flight,” that both Democrats and Republicans are “searching for a crisis that does not really exist,” and that there is no evidence to support this myth.
As Speaker of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan pushed through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that will cost at least $1.5 trillion and provide around half of its benefits to the richest five percent of households. He then announced that Congress needs to cut entitlements to get the budget deficit under control. Before becoming Speaker, Ryan spent several years running the Budget Committee and the Ways and Means Committee, where he issued budget and tax plans each year to carry out his goals (lower taxes for the rich and cuts in entitlement spending), which are described in the reports below.
While rhetoric may bill this tax law and proposed extension as a middle-class tax cut, the data tell the real story: the Trump-GOP tax law was and remains a giveaway to corporations and the wealthy.
As other researchers as well as journalists have noted, teachers striking or threatening to strike over low wages and overall lack of investment isn’t simply a narrative about schools and public workers’ pay. It is illustrative of a broader conflict over tax laws and how states and local jurisdictions fund critical public services that range from K-12 education, public safety, roads and bridges, health care, parks, to higher education.
Due to its rushed passage in a matter of weeks, without public hearings or enough time even for basic proofreading, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) contains numerous unintended consequences that Congress is now scrambling to fix. The authors of the new law have openly admitted that the law includes major mistakes. One of the most prominent drafting errors is what is now known as the “grain glitch,” which temporarily created a huge incentive for farmers to sell their products to cooperatives over businesses taking other forms.
The Heritage Foundation, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) routinely disagree on a wide range of policy issues, but a recent Ways and Means Tax Policy Subcommittee hearing revealed they all agree that the continual and unpaid-for extension of temporary tax breaks needs to end.
Statement of Richard Phillips, Senior Policy Analyst
Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy
Before the Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Tax Policy
Hearing on “Post Tax Reform Evaluation of Recently Expired Tax Provisions”
When President Trump released the initial outline of his tax reform plan in April, carried interest repeal was nowhere to be found. And when Congress hammered out a tax plan in late December, lawmakers agreed to reduce the cost of the carried interest tax provision by about 5 percent. (Full repeal would have raised $20 billion over a decade; the enacted provision raises about $1 billion.)
If there was one thing that tax reform legislation was supposed to accomplish, it was to put an end to the scandalous semiannual ritual of extending and expanding the list of the temporary provisions in the tax code, known as tax extenders. During the passage of the last tax extenders bill at the end of December 2015, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed that it was critical to have a tax code that provides “permanency and certainty” and to move forward with comprehensive tax reform that would decide the fate of the extenders once and for all. Unfortunately, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act not only failed to eliminate the tax extenders, it significantly expanded the number of temporary provisions in the code.
Sometimes, ranking near No. 1 in the world is not a badge of pride. According to the Financial Secrecy Index released by the Tax Justice Network (TJN), the United States is the second largest contributor to financial secrecy in the world, placing it in the company of infamous tax havens such as Switzerland (ranked No. 1) and the Cayman Islands (ranked No. 3). Financial secrecy is enabling people to hide income from the authorities to evade taxes or financial regulation, launder profits from crime, finance terrorism, or otherwise break the law.
Most states piggyback on federal law to some extent for their own taxes, especially personal and corporate income taxes. These states in particular must understand what the federal changes mean for their own tax codes and decide whether to remain “coupled” to changes in the tax bill, decouple from them or take other action in response.
From the outset, states—particularly wealthier states—objected to the GOP’s proposal to limit SALT deductions in part because it reduces the amount of state and local taxes that the federal government essentially picks up for taxpayers (by allowing a SALT deduction, the federal government is, in effect, paying part of taxpayers’ state and local tax bill), which could hinder states’ ability to raise revenue. Simply focusing on SALT, though, misses the bigger picture. The fact remains that the overall tax bill disproportionately benefits higher-income taxpayers even with the $10,000 SALT cap in place. Responding to federal tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the rich with state proposals that help bestow more tax cuts on upper-income taxpayers is irrational.
The $1.5 trillion tax cut that took effect on Jan.1 was never really going to be about small businesses, despite President Trump’s transparently false claims to the contrary. However, one economic sector still appears happy, for now, to hoist a mug to Congress’s successful sleight of hand: craft breweries.
Taxpayers are still learning about the intended and unintended consequences of the major tax overhaul that Republican leaders ramrodded through late last year. One little-noted provision subverts state laws that…
The tax bill just approved by Congress was a golden opportunity to solve these problems for good—but turned out to be a colossal missed opportunity. Instead of addressing the hundreds of billions in lost federal tax revenue due to offshore tax avoidance schemes, the Trump-GOP tax bill would forgive most of the taxes owed on the profits held offshore right now and open the floodgates to even more offshore profit-shifting in the future.
Nearly 30 years ago, Trump was well connected enough that he was able to go to Congress and testify about how tax changes affected his business. Ordinary working people are rarely lucky enough to talk about their personal experiences in front of a congressional committee. So if they want to make their views known about the catastrophe of 2017, it will have to be in election of 2018.
ITEP researchers have produced new reports and analyses that look at various pieces of the tax bill, including: the share of tax cuts that will go to foreign investors; how the plans would affect the number of taxpayers that take the mortgage interest deduction or write off charitable contributions, and remaining problems with the bill in spite of proposed compromises on state and local tax deductions.
Republicans in Congress are reported to be considering two versions of a change they claim would “improve” the current bills by making them more generous to residents of higher-taxed states. As illustrated by these estimates, the reality is that these proposals would make little difference on those states and taxpayers hit hardest.
The Senate tax bill, with or without either of the compromises that could be added to it, would shift personal income taxes away from Florida and Texas to states like California and New York, which are already paying a high share relative to their populations.
The hand-written scrawls in the margins of the hastily written 500-page Senate tax bill had barely dried when lawmakers began to reveal the true motivation behind their rush to fundamentally overhaul the nation’s tax code.
But so far, Republican leaders have demonstrated that, for them, the only voices that matter in this debate are those that fund their campaigns.
A new report from ITEP provides more details on the many breaks and loopholes for wealthy real estate investors like Trump and what a true tax reform would do to close them.
The federal tax code includes several loopholes and special breaks that advantage wealthy real estate investors like President Donald Trump. Under current law, real estate investors can claim losses much more quickly and easily than other taxpayers, but they also have several methods to delay or avoid reporting any profits to the IRS.
Adding a property tax deduction back into the Senate bill may sound like a compromise, but a new analysis performed using the ITEP Microsimulation Tax Model reveals that the amount of state and local taxes deducted by Maine residents would plummet by 90 percent under this change, from $2.58 billion to just $262 million in 2019. In short, this change is much more symbolic than substantive.
George Washington is said to have described the U.S. Senate as the body that cools the passions of an impulsive House of Representatives just as a saucer cools tea. But current Senate leaders appear to think of themselves as more of a Bunsen burner.
One of the findings is that every income group would face higher personal income taxes in years after 2025 (including 2027). Chained CPI would gradually push taxpayers into higher income tax brackets and make the standard deduction, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and several other breaks less generous over time. The switch to chained CPI would cause some low-income people to face a tax hike starting in 2019, the second year the plan would be in effect.
One of the more surprising findings of ITEP’s recent estimates on the Senate tax bill is that 19 states would pay more overall in federal taxes if the bill becomes law. This is not just an increase in the personal income taxes paid (which would happen in some states under the House bill). This is an increase in their net federal taxes overall, even including the assumed benefits of corporate tax cuts and estate tax cuts.
The bottom line is that the rich and corporations are doing fine. We don’t need legislative solutions that fix non-existent problems. Only in a world of alternative facts does the top 0.2 percent of estates need to be exempt from the estate tax, for example.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was introduced on Nov. 2 in the House of Representatives, would raise taxes on some Americans and cut taxes on others while also providing significant savings to foreign investors.
A Chart Book on the U.S. Tax System
As our report on the Trump-GOP tax framework explained, in nine states plus the District of Columbia, more than a fifth of households would pay higher taxes under the framework.
The Trump-GOP taxframework would reduce the top personal income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 35 percent, but now lawmakers are discussing keeping the top personal income tax rate at 39.6 percent for those with taxable income of more than $1 million. This modification would barely change the proposal’s overall impact.
For some lawmakers, annual deficits matter a lot—unless the nation is paying for tax cuts for the wealthy via deficit spending.
Last night, Republican lawmakers demonstrated that previous grandstanding about the nation’s debt is much ado about nothing. The Senate approved a budget resolution on a party-line vote that would 1. fast-track legislation adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit over 10 years by cutting taxes, and 2. make it easy to enact this measure without a single Democratic vote.
Real tax reform would mean raising more revenue to make public investments and increasing the progressivity of the tax code. Many conservatives strongly disagree with this and insist that a substantial tax cut for the wealthiest Americans will grow the economy.
Rather than engage in this policy debate based on policy ideals and principles, President Trump, other White House officials and GOP leaders have peppered their sales pitch for tax cuts with false claims about the amount of taxes that Americans pay and the effect the current GOP tax proposal would have on the tax system.
The Trump Administration and GOP leaders continue to wrap their multi-trillion tax cut gift to the wealthy in easily refutable rhetoric about boosting the nation’s middle class. Later today, trucks…
The Trump-GOP tax plan is touted as plan for the middle-class but delivers a boon to the wealthy, throws a comparative pittance to everyone else and even includes a dose of tax increases for some middle- and upper-middle-income taxpayers. The data belie the rhetoric.
In announcing a new tax cut framework this week in Indianapolis that was negotiated with House and Senate leaders, President Trump claimed that “Indiana is a tremendous example of the prosperity that is unleashed when we cut taxes and set free the dreams of our citizens …. In Indiana, you have seen firsthand that cutting taxes on businesses makes your state more competitive and leads to more jobs and higher paychecks for your workers.”
President Trump and Republican leaders in Congress have proposed a “territorial” tax system, which would allow American corporations to pay no U.S. taxes on most profits they book offshore. This would worsen the already substantial problem of corporate tax avoidance and result in more jobs and investment leaving the U.S. Lawmakers should know some key facts about the territorial approach.
On the surface, census poverty and income data released Tuesday reveal the nation’s economic conditions are improving for working families. The federal poverty rate declined for the second consecutive year…
Today, the economic climate is starkly different, but it seems GOP leaders are relying on messaging and luck to push through the biggest tax package since 1986. The White House, Republican leaders and anti-tax advocates all have been toeing the same erroneous line: their plans to cut individual and corporate taxes will benefit middle class families and grow the economy. This is, of course, baloney.
Until GOP leaders put forth a detailed tax proposal, we will not know for certain whether the plan will focus on the middle-class and create jobs. But what we do know is that unless the plan is a radical departure from the principles outlined by President Trump earlier this year or laid out by Paul Ryan last year in his “Better Way,” plan, GOP-led tax “reform” efforts will be a tax break bonanza for the wealthiest Americans while delivering a pittance to working people.
Art Laffer and Stephen Moore recently penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which they called on state and local policymakers to support the Trump tax cuts. They claimed that the Trump plan would provide a significant boost to state and local tax revenues, thereby allowing states with large budget deficits to “regain fiscal health.”
State and local lawmakers should not be fooled by these claims. The reality is that Trump’s tax cuts are more likely to worsen state and local fiscal health than improve it.
Today Republican leaders in Congress and officials from the White House released a joint statement on tax reform, claiming that “the single most important action we can take to grow our economy and help the middle class get ahead is to fix our broken tax code for families, small business, and American job creators competing at home and around the globe.”
Unfortunately, the proposals they have put forward so far do not address any such goals.