Now that both major political party conventions are finally behind us, it’s time to focus on the upcoming national election. Among their many differences, the Republicans and Democrats have widely divergent tax platforms. It’s good to know what tax positions the two parties and their presidential candidates have staked out even though platforms are always relatively nonspecific and not necessarily synced with what the presidential candidates have in mind. Here’s a quick summary.
Democratic Party Tax Platform
Adopted on July 25, the 2016 Democratic national platform includes generalized goals that you might expect from the Democrats, such as supporting small businesses by providing tax relief and simplifying the tax code, and closing tax loopholes that benefit wealthy individuals.
More specific proposals include:
Creating a surtax on multimillionaires and restoring fair taxation on multimillion-dollar estates to ensure that wealthy individuals pay their fair share of federal taxes,
- Helping fund Social Security by taxing certain individuals with annual earnings above $250,000,
- Expanding the earned income tax credit program for low-wage workers who aren’t raising children,
- Expanding the child credit by making more of it refundable and/or indexing it to inflation,
- Reducing the tax penalties and simplifying the reporting requirements for Americans living abroad,
- Clawing back tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, cracking down on inversions and other methods that companies use to “dodge their tax responsibilities,” and ending tax deferral on foreign business profits,
- Implementing a tax on financial transactions to curb excessive speculation and high-frequency trading,
- Repealing the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) 40% excise tax on high-cost health insurance, which is scheduled to take effect in 2020, and
- Providing tax incentives for clean energy and other green business practices, while eliminating special tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuel companies.
Clinton on Taxes
As of now, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has provided more specific details on her tax proposals than her opponent. Some of these ideas elaborate on (or contrast with) her party’s platform.
Businesses. Clinton would like to impose new restrictions and tax increases on U.S. companies with foreign operations. Her plans also include a risk fee on large banks and financial institutions, as well as curbing tax subsidies for oil and gas companies.
She’d also offer a 15% tax credit for employers that share profits with workers and a $1,500 tax credit to businesses for each new apprentice that they hire and train.
Individuals. Higher income tax rates for wealthy individuals would be included in Clinton’s plans. She advocates a 4% fair-share surcharge on individuals who earn more than $5 million per year. And she’d ask the wealthiest to contribute more to Social Security. In addition, she proposes limiting certain itemized deductions for high-income individuals and disallowing IRA contributions for individuals who have large IRA balances.
Capital gains. Clinton proposes a graduated tax rate regime where the capital gains tax rate decreases from 39.6% to 20% over a six-year period. (The 3.8% net investment income tax would still apply, however.) The idea is to encourage long-term investing. Assets held for more than one year but not more than two years would be impacted the most: Tax rates on gains from those assets would nearly double.
Estate tax. She proposes reducing the federal estate tax exemption to $3.5 million (from $5.45 million) and the lifetime federal gift tax exemption to $1 million (from $5.45 million). Her plans also would raise the federal estate and gift tax rate to 45%.
Healthcare. Clinton proposes a 20% credit to help taxpayers offset caregiving costs for elderly family members (up to a maximum credit of $1,200).
In addition to liberalizing the existing premium tax credit to make healthcare coverage more affordable, she’d establish a tax credit of up to $5,000 per family for buying health coverage on ACA exchanges.
Republican Party Tax Platform
The 2016 Republican national platform was adopted on July 18. In general, the Republicans want to promote economic growth and eliminate unspecified special-interest loopholes, while being mindful of the tax burdens that are imposed on the elderly and families with children.
More specific proposals include:
- Making the Internal Revenue Code so simple and easy to understand that the IRS becomes obsolete and can be abolished,
- Removing all marriage penalties from the tax code,
- Repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and any ACA-related tax increases,
- Replacing the ACA with an approach to improving healthcare that’s based on competition, patient choice and timely access to treatment,
- Considering options to preserve Social Security benefits without tax increases,
- Reducing the corporate tax rate to be on a par with (or below) the rates of other industrialized nations,
- Simplifying the tax rules for U.S. citizens who live overseas, including repealing the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and the Foreign Bank and Asset Reporting (FBAR) requirements,
- Adopting a balanced-budget amendment that would impose a government spending cap and require a supermajority approval for any tax increases (except in the case of war or legitimate emergencies),
- Tying any new value added tax or national sales tax to the simultaneous repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, which authorizes the federal income tax, and
- Opposing any legislation that would impose a carbon tax on businesses or individuals.
Trump on Taxes
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has several ideas to simplify our tax system, which don’t always sync with the Republican platform.
Here’s what’s been discussed on his website or on the campaign trail to date.
Businesses. Trump proposes cutting the corporate tax rate to 15% (from the current 35%). His proposed 15% tax rate would also apply to business income from sole proprietorships and business income passed through to individuals from S corporations, limited liability companies and partnerships.
He’d impose a cap on business interest deductions. Trump would eliminate the tax deferral on overseas profits and allow a one-time 10% rate for repatriation of corporate cash that’s held overseas.
The current tax treatment of carried interest for speculative partnerships that don’t grow businesses or create jobs and are not risking their own capital would also be ended by his plan.
Individuals. Trump proposes lower tax rates for individuals and fewer tax brackets. His plan now calls for three federal income tax brackets: 12%, 25% and 33%.
Currently, individuals can fall into seven federal income tax brackets: 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35% and 39.6%. He’d also like to abolish the alternative minimum tax.
His plans would restrict some existing individual write-offs, but he’d retain the deductions for charitable donations that the tax code currently allows, as well as home mortgage interest. He also recently proposed making U.S. families’ child-care costs tax-deductible.
Capital gains. His proposed tax rates on long-term capital gains and dividends would be 0%, 15% and 20%.
Estate tax. Trump would like to eliminate the federal estate tax.
Healthcare. Trump would like to repeal the ACA and any ACA-related tax increases, including the 3.8% net investment income tax on wealthy individuals. But he would let individuals fully deduct health insurance premium payments.