Responsible Tax Reform II. The Trump Plan

 

Responsible tax reform will be highly beneficial for the U.S. economy because:

  • Economic growth will be speeded up by lowering tax rates on businesses, thereby encouraging more investment.
  • National debt will shrink because faster growth will produce more tax revenue. But this only works if the revised tax plan is revenue neutral to begin with.

The Trump tax plan, described here and here, has the following features:

  • three tax brackets, reduced from seven. Simplification like this is a good idea.
  • double the standard deduction. This puts more money in the pockets of the average tax payer who does not itemize deductions and is therefore a good idea.
  • repeal of the alternative minimum tax. This only affects wealthy people and should be retained, if necessary, to make sure that overall reform does not increase the deficit.
  • lower capital gains tax. This will encourage more investment but should not be included unless the overall plan is revenue neutral.
  • repeal of inheritance tax. This tax feature should be retained until our annual budget deficits are eliminated, i.e. until we achieve balanced budgets on an annual basis.
  • preserving deductions for mortgage interest and charitable contributions. The mortgage interest deduction should be greatly reduced from its current level of $1 million per residence. Wealthy taxpayers don’t need that much help. Raising the standard deduction will already help middle income taxpayers.
  • cutting the corporate tax rate. This is an excellent idea as long as its revenue loss is made up elsewhere. It will encourage multinational corporations to bring their overseas profits back home for reinvestment in the U.S.

Conclusion. The Trump tax plan has some good features as well as some poor ones. Reducing tax rates is a good idea.  But adding to annual deficits is a very bad idea.  With some effort it is possible to reduce tax rates in a revenue neutral way.

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Tax Reform and Economic Growth

 

In a recent post I pointed out that both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates are being unrealistic with their tax reform proposals:

  • The Republican plans would stimulate the economy but at the cost of huge increases in the national debt, even taking into account the growth effects of these plans.
  • Raising the top tax rate to 50%, a Democratic idea, would bring in an additional $100 billion per year in tax revenue, but this is neither enough to make a big dent on budget deficits or appreciably lower income inequality by redistribution.
    Capture

The nonpartisan Tax Foundation has just released a new report, “Options for Broadening the U.S. Tax Base,” describing three different ways to do this:

  • Ending the exclusion of employer-sponsored health insurance
  • Removing the cap on the social security payroll tax
  • Capping itemized deductions at a fixed dollar level

Combined with marginal tax rate cuts, each of these options would lead to substantial economic growth.  However, the first option, ending the exclusion of employer-sponsored health insurance, is unlikely but rather this exclusion could be turned into tax credits as part of further healthcare reform.  Likewise, removing the cap on the social security payroll tax is more likely to be used to raise additional revenue to make social security financially sound for the long run.
However, the single measure of capping itemized deductions at $25,000 per individual could be combined with

  • Lowering the corporate tax rate to 27%
  • Cutting the top three ordinary income brackets by 5%
  • Implementing a top capital gains tax rate of 20%

Such changes would be revenue neutral and would lead to a long term GDP gain of 2.7%, a long term wage rate gain of 2.2% and a ten year dynamic revenue gain of $759 billion.
Conclusion:  it is possible to cut tax rates, broaden the tax base and grow the economy all at the same time and without increasing the deficit.  This is what we should be doing!

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