Evaluating the 2016 House Tax Reform Plan


The American economy is in a slow growth rut and needs to be revved up. Last week I surveyed a proposal for tax reform from the House Ways and Means Committee designed to do exactly this.
Capture11Its main features are:

  • Consolidate the seven current individual tax rate brackets into just three: 12%, 25% and 33%.
  • Dividends and capital gains are taxed at ½ of the above wage rates, depending on total income. This will encourage investment.
  • The standard deduction of $12,600 (for joint returns) is raised to $24,000 and the $4,050 personal exemption is eliminated. This means that fewer filers will itemize.
  • In fact, all itemized deductions for individuals are eliminated except for mortgage interest and charitable contributions.
  • The pass through tax rate for small businesses is capped at 25%. Full and immediate expensing for investments in new equipment and technology is allowed.
  • The corporate tax rate will drop from 35% to 20%, paid for by eliminating dozens of exemptions, including interest expensing. A territorial system will be established so that multinational firms will no longer be taxed on earnings both abroad and at home.

The non-partisan Tax Foundation has analyzed the House tax plan and concludes that:

  • The plan would significantly reduce marginal tax rates and the cost of capital which would lead over the long term to 9.1% higher GDP growth, 7.7% higher wages and an additional 1.7 million fulltime equivalent jobs.
  • The plan would reduce federal revenue over a decade by $2.4 trillion on a static basis and $191 billion on a dynamic basis.
  • On a dynamic basis, incomes for all income quintiles would increase by at least 8.4% over the long term.

Conclusion: TF’s analysis shows that the proposal is highly pro-growth.  But it should also be made revenue neutral by, for example, limiting the mortgage interest deduction as much as necessary to accomplish this. We need to make the economy grow faster but we also need to shrink our annual deficits.

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