The starkest difference between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election campaign was their stated positions on taxes.
Hillary Clinton formally endorsed six major tax hikes, totaling more than $1.3 trillion over the next decade: hikes on individual rates, increases in the corporate income tax, a higher capital gains tax, a transaction tax on all stock trades, a higher death tax and — borrowing from the tax policies of the Weimar Republic — an “exit tax” on businesses attempting to leave America.
This tax cut will be as powerfully pro-growth as the Kemp-Roth tax cut Reagan enacted in 1981.
Despite her promise to never raise any tax on anyone earning less than $250,000, she endorsed a payroll tax hike on all wage earners, a steep tax on soda pop, and even a 25 percent national retail sales tax on gun purchases.
Donald Trump said he would never raise taxes. And he outlined a series of tax cuts. Now that he is the president-elect, what can we expect on the tax front?
The first Trump tax cut will be the repeal of most or even all of the nearly 20 tax increases that funded Obamacare, which will total about $1 trillion over the next decade. These are taxes on your health insurance, hospitals (both charitable and for-profit), medical devices, drugs, capital gains, your Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Savings accounts, out-of-pocket medical bills, and even a steep “indoor tanning tax.” These tax cuts will come inside the first reconciliation package.
The second Trump tax cut will be a comprehensive tax reform package that has multiple parts.
First, the plan lowers the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent or 15 percent. The current European average corporate tax rate is less than 25 percent, and falling. Taxes on businesses that now pay their taxes though the individual income tax code such as partnerships and Subchapter S corporations will pay 25 percent, down from 43.5 percent.
Second, Trump moves from long depreciation schedules for business investment to immediate, full business expensing. This greatly reduces the cost of new investment. (Historically Democrats have not opposed expensing in the way they absolutely hate individual rate reductions.)
Third, America will join the rest of the world in adopting a “territorial” tax system where the U.S. taxes activity in America and allows foreign nations to tax activity in their own nations.
By moving to a low corporate rate (20 or 15 percent) and a territorial tax system, the advantage to moving overseas is eliminated. No more inversions for tax reasons. It will also make business taxes “border adjustable,” which means the corporate income tax will removed from the cost of exported goods and services and added to imports.
Fifth, the death tax is repealed.
Sixth, the Alternative Minimum Tax is repealed. The AMT was passed in 1969 to punish 155 Americans who paid little or no federal income tax. Now the AMT threatens millions.
And seventh, the number of individual rates will be reduced from today’s seven to three with the top rate at 33 percent, not the present 43.5 percent.
This tax cut will be as powerfully pro-growth as the Kemp-Roth tax cut Reagan enacted in 1981. Reagan’s tax cuts led to 4 percent annual growth throughout his administration, while Obama’s growth was 2 percent. Had America grown at Reagan rates over the past eight years rather than Obama rates, we would have more than 10 million more Americans working in the U.S. And growing at 4 percent rather than 2 percent for a decade increases revenue to the government — through growth — by $5 trillion.
What else? I hope that Congress will keep Section 1031, which allows companies that trade up, buying newer and more expensive cars or larger buildings, to delay paying the capital gains tax until they cash out.
Congress should also look at reducing the corporate capital gains tax from 35 percent to the same rate as individuals — or even better, to zero. (All gains inside a company are eventually taxed when the firm stock is sold.)
There are two tax cuts that should follow the 2017 tax cuts.
First, the Treasury Department should index the basis of all capital gains to inflation. It can do this by executive order. It does not require a vote of Congress. This would reduce the damage the capital gains tax does by 40 percent or more. We will no longer pay capital gains taxes on inflation.
Because the House of Representatives has been working on tax reform for several years and because the Trump campaign plan parallels the House version, in the next 100 days the House will pass a bill that will be the Trump tax cut.
The Senate will have to vote on the legislation with few changes. But Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah has a great idea to eliminate the double taxation of income built into the present corporate and individual income tax structures. Integrating those taxes would eliminate the double taxation of dividends. This long-overdue reform, plus others that Hatch and other senators have proposed, could be in the next tax cut in 2018 or 2019. Remember, the Bush/Cheney administration had a Bush tax cut in 2001 and then a Cheney-driven tax cut in 2003 that dropped the capital gains and dividend tax rates.
2017 will see the first two Trump tax cuts — but not the last.
Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform. His Twitter handle is @GroverNorquist.