Much like the candidates themselves, the tax plans put out by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton could hardly be more different.
“In every meaningful respect these plans are mirror images,” said Len Burman, director the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, which put out its updated analyses of both candidates’ plans on Tuesday afternoon.
The new reports incorporate most of the changes Trump and Clinton have made to their original plans in recent months. But directionally, their revisions don’t change their broad, opposing courses.
“Trump has very, very large tax cuts that are primarily focused on high-income individuals. Clinton has a significant tax increase … almost all of which is focused on very high-income people,” Burman noted in a call with reporters.
Trump’s plan would significantly reduce revenue — by an estimated $7.2 trillion including interest on the debt in just the first decade and by nearly $21 trillion in the second decade, according to the TPC.
Clinton’s plan would raise revenue by an estimated $1.4 trillion in the first 10 years, then by another $2.7 trillion in the second decade.
The TPC has yet to offer its estimates of the effects of each candidate’s plan on economic growth, wages and investments. But when those estimates do come out, it may show the revenue losses under Trump’s plan and the revenue increases under Clinton’s to be less pronounced.
Its current estimates, however, do factor in behavioral effects of taxpayers in response to the proposed changes, such as the potential for tax avoidance.
Trump has tax cuts for most, but …
The Republican presidential nominee is calling for a wholesale revision of the tax code. In many ways he’d simplify it, but not entirely.
Trump has made a big deal of wanting to cut taxes. His plan would lower income tax rates and reduce today’s seven brackets to just three: 12%, 25% and 33%. Today’s top rates are much higher, ranging from 28% to 39.6%.
He would increase the standard deduction and repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax, the estate tax and Obamacare — including the taxes associated with it.
As a result, all income groups on average would see a tax cut. But the rich would benefit far more than anyone else, both in dollars and as a percent of income.
The TPC estimates that those in top 0.1% of households — who have incomes topping $3.7 million — would see their tax bill cut by $1.1 million on average, or 14%.
By contrast, those in the very middle of the income distribution would see an average tax cut of $1,010, or 1.8%.
And the poorest of households would see their after-tax income go up by just $110, or less than 1%.
What’s more, the report concurs with other tax experts’ research that many middle-income single parents and families with a lot of kids would likely see a tax increase under Trump’s plan. Here’s why: While Trump would increase the standard deduction and add new child care tax breaks, he would also raise the lowest income tax bracket to 12% from 10%, eliminate the head of household status and repeal personal exemptions, which are very valuable to parents.
As a result, many could find that those tradeoffs leave them with a higher tax bill.
The Trump campaign in a statement characterized the Tax Policy Center analysis as “catastrophically flawed.” It asserts, among other things, that TPC made incorrect assumptions when analyzing Trump’s business tax proposal. And it lambasted the Center for not delaying the report’s release until it also could provide a so-called dynamic score that incorporates the plan’s economic effects.
Burman noted in his call that the campaign failed to provide guidance on key questions where TPC expressed uncertainty. He also said TPC would release its dynamic score as soon as it can fix a glitch in its scoring model, which could happen in the next week.
Clinton would seriously hike tax burdens on the rich
Unlike Trump, Clinton is not proposing a full overhaul of the tax code. Instead her plan squarely aims to make sure the wealthy pay their “fair share” as she defines it.
She’ll make the code more complex, particularly for high-income filers who will have to figure out, among other things, if they meet her new Buffett Rule (ensuring the rich pay at least 30% of their income in taxes), and if they are subject to her proposed 4% income surtax on income over $5 million.
Besides those changes, she would raise the estate and gift tax and raise capital gains taxes on stocks held less than six years, among other things. Just this week she proposed an increase in the child tax credit to benefit low- and middle-income families.
Clinton has vowed not to raise taxes on households making less than $250,000. And indeed the TPC estimates nearly all of her tax increases would fall on the top 1% of earners. By contrast, her proposals would slightly increase the after-tax income for low- and middle-income families.
The top 0.1% would see their tax bill go up on average by more than $800,000, or nearly 11%.
By contrast those in the middle of the income distribution would see their tax bill cut by $110, or 0.2%
And those at the bottom would see a tax cut of $100, or 0.7%.
The TPC report notes that those who make between $143,000 and $209,000 might see a small tax increase of 0.1% on average, but not because of changes Clinton proposes to the individual income tax code. Rather, it’s due to the assumption that some of her proposed business income tax increases will be borne by investors and workers.
In its response to the report, the Clinton campaign dismissed the Trump plan as the “most extreme form of trickle down economics.” The campaign also said Clinton’s plan would “pay for investments in good-paying jobs by requiring the wealthy, Wall Street and large corporations to pay their fair share.”