During this acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump contrasted his stance on tax policy with that of his rival, Hillary Clinton.
"While Hillary Clinton plans a massive, and I mean massive, tax increase, I have proposed the largest tax reduction of any candidate who has run for president this year, Democrat or Republican," Trump said.
We’ll analyze both parts of this statement in order.
Clinton’s tax increase
Clinton does propose an increase in taxes, though it’s a stretch to call it massive
The Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center, an independent think tank, estimates that most Americans won’t be affected by Clinton’s proposed tax hikes because they are targeted at the highest earners.
She would create a 4 percent surcharge on incomes over $5 million and impose a 30 percent minimum rate on adjusted gross incomes above $1 million;
She would also limit itemized deduction benefits at 28 percent; raise rates on medium-term capital gains to between 27.8 percent and 47.4 percent; increase the top estate tax rate to 45 percent and reduce the threshold to $3.5 million; and limit the value of tax-deferred retirement accounts.
These changes would fall most heavily on the richest taxpayers, and for them, the hit would indeed be substantial.
For the top 5 percent of taxpayers, the increases would average $2,673, or reduction of a bit less than 1 percent in after-tax income. For the top 1 percent of taxpayers, the increases would average $78,000, which is equal to a 5 percent reduction in after-tax income. For the top one-tenth of 1 percent -- who earn $3.7 million or above -- the extra tax bite would be $520,000, or a 7.6 percent reduction in after-tax income.
For the other 95 percent of taxpayers, the hit is relatively minor. Middle-income households would pay about $44 more on average, and the poorest filers would lose an additional $4.
All told, Clinton’s plan would increase revenues collected by $1.1 trillion over 10 years, according to modeling by the Tax Policy Center.
"That’s roughly a 2.5 percent increase in projected revenue for the decade," said Roberton Williams, a Tax Policy Center fellow. Williams acknowledged that the question of whether this counts as "massive" is a subjective question. Still, he said, "not in my book."
Richard Borean, communications director of the more conservative Tax Foundation, concurred that the question is a subjective one. He did add that Clinton’s plan is far more modest than the one offered by her former rival for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders. Sanders’ proposed revenue increase, according to the Tax Foundation’s own modeling, is more than 20 times bigger than Clinton’s.
Trump’s tax cuts
Trump is on solid ground with the second half of his statement.
He would consolidate the existing seven income brackets (with rates from 10 to 39.6 percent) into three with rates at 10, 20 and 25 percent. He would also Increase the standard deduction from $6,300 to $25,000 for single filers and from $12,600 to $50,000 for joint filers and phase out most itemized deductions, except for charitable giving and mortgage interest. And he would eliminate the estate tax, the alternative minimum tax, the Affordable Care Act taxes, and the marriage penalty.
The Tax Policy Center calculated that the average tax cuts for the top 1 percent would be $275,000, or 17.5 percent of after-tax income, and for the top 0.1 percent, they would be $1.3 million, or nearly 19 percent.
Middle-income households, meanwhile, would get a cut of $2,700, or a 4.9 percent reduction. Those making the least would see a cut, too, but only of $128 or so, roughly 1 percent of after-tax income.
The Tax Policy Center found that Trump’s plan would reduce revenues by the most of any candidate it analyzed. Revenues under Trump’s plan would fall by $9.5 trillion over 10 years, compared to $8.6 trillion under Ted Cruz’s plan and $6.8 trillion under Marco Rubio’s plan. (The center did not analyze the plans of several Republican candidates -- including John Kasich, Chris Christie and Ben Carson -- for a variety of reasons.)
The Tax Foundation’s analyses agreed. "Trump’s plan is, in fact, the largest tax cut proposed by any candidate," Borean said. "His plan would reduce revenue by $10.14 trillion over 10 years after accounting for the impact on the economy, or $11.98 without."
We’ll note, however, that economists are skeptical that Trump’s tax cuts would be sustainable, since they would require either massive cuts to discretionary federal spending or an explosion of new debt.
"He says economic growth and cuts would make up for that, but it’s hard to imagine that it would be possible to do so," Williams said.
Trump said, "While Hillary Clinton plans a massive, and I mean massive, tax increase, I have proposed the largest tax reduction of any candidate who has run for president this year, Democrat or Republican."
Clinton is indeed proposing a tax increase, though it can be described as "massive" for only the richest Americans. Meanwhile, Trump is correct that his tax cuts were the biggest of any 2016 candidate. We rate the claim Mostly True.
Donald Trump, acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, July 21, 2016
Tax Policy Center, "An Analysis of Hillary Clinton's Tax Proposals," March 3, 2016
Donald J. Trump, "Tax Reform That Will Make America Great Again," accessed July 21, 2016
Tax Policy Center, "An Analysis of Donald Trump's Tax Plan," Dec. 22, 2015
Tax Foundation, "Details and Analysis of Donald Trump’s Tax Plan," Sept. 29, 2015
Tax Foundation, "Details and Analysis of Senator Bernie Sanders’s Tax Plan," Jan. 28, 2016
PolitiFact, "PolitiFact's guide to the 2016 presidential candidate tax plans," April 7, 2016
Email interview with Richard Borean, communications director at the Tax Foundation, July 21, 2016
Email interview with Roberton Williams, fellow at the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center, July 21, 2016
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