The top 10 percent control 76 percent of the nation’s wealth. Yet a new study* found that the bottom 99.9 percent pay 175 times as much income tax as the top 0.1 percent! That’s because the wealthy use a variety of tax shelters, both offshore and in tax havens such as Delaware and South Dakota. In addition, our largest, multinational corporations dodge taxes by moving their headquarters offshore (at least on paper) and by parking large sums of cash in offshore tax shelters.
Obviously, tax reform is sorely needed, and it’s the next big item on the Trump agenda. But, with Trump and the GOP in charge, don’t expect it to benefit you. While true reform would be almost universally welcomed, the people shaping the process are all billionaires and multi-millionaires with ties to Wall Street.
What are the chances that they will introduce a bill to benefit ordinary working-class Americans?
The short answer is zero if you look at the framework being considered by the administration as reported by Politico. For example, the administration is planning to raid your 401k savings account by forcing you to pay taxes on the money up front. Other proposals include eliminating the mortgage interest deduction for homeowners, eliminating federal deductions for the money you pay for state and local taxes, and eliminating charitable deductions. All of these proposals will result in a substantial tax INCREASE for ordinary Americans. They will also punish the poor by eliminating incentives for taxpayers to donate to charities.
Even more worrying are the tax rates being proposed.
At the heart of the “reform” is a plan to reduce the number of tax brackets from 7 to 3. That, alone, will punish taxpayers at the bottom of each bracket.
Of course, there is plenty of good news in the plan for the wealthy. The new plan would repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax – a boon to many well-off households. It would repeal the estate tax, a tax that currently applies only to 2 out of every 100 estates. (The tax is levied only on the portion of an estate’s value exceeding $5.49 million per person.) The plan would repeal the tax on investment income that helps pay for Obamacare. And it would cut the top marginal rate for the wealthiest Americans from 39.6 percent to 35 percent.
The Tax Policy Center estimates that the administration’s tax “reform” plan will cut taxes by $6 trillion over 10 years with almost half of the savings going to the top one percent.
And if you’re an executive for a large corporation, the news is just as good.
Though the current top marginal corporate rate of 39 percent is one of the highest in the world, very few US corporations actually pay that rate. Indeed, according to the 2015 ranking by World Bank, the total corporate tax burden for US corporations as a percentage of profits is tied with Tanzania for 64th in the world! And our corporate taxes as a percentage of GDP are lower than 22 of 32 of the world’s most advanced nations. Yet the Trump plan would cut the corporate tax rate to just 15 percent, making it one of the lowest tax rates in the world. The plan would also create a territorial tax system permitting multinational corporations to pay tax only on income earned in the US. Just what they need – yet another tax dodge! Additionally, Trump’s proposed tax plan would gift multinationals a one-time reduced tax on the trillions of dollars currently being held offshore.
The Center for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that the cuts in corporate taxes alone will deprive the federal government of at least $2 trillion in the next 10 years! The administration’s belief is that the cuts in revenue will be offset by a yuuuge spurt of business growth. But that belief is wildly optimistic. Indeed, except in times of deep recession, there is no evidence that tax cuts grow the economy. And, following 8 years of private sector job growth, we are most certainly not in a recession.
If this plan – or anything approaching it – is approved, Grover Norquist will finally realize his dream. The federal government will be starved to the point where he can “drown it in a bathtub.”
* Study by John Hatdioannides of the Cass business school, Marika Karanassou of Queen May University and Hector Sala of the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona and IZA in Bonn.