Speaking in Detroit, MI this week Donald Trump laid out his new and improved tax reform plan. In it he promises to “simplify the tax code” and to “reduce the tax brackets from 7 to 3, set at 12%, 25%, and 33%”. If this sounds a lot like Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way” tax plan, there’s a reason. Trump also said, “We will work with House Republicans on this plan.”
Actually, the plans he spoke of differed from the #BetterWay plan in only one aspect (Trump suggested 15% business tax rate, while Better Way calls for 25%). Both Trump and the white paper call for an end to corporate inversions, for incentives to repatriate funds, and of course Trump has essentially copied the personal income tax reforms from Better Way word for word.
While many of Trump’s earliest and loudest supporters may be crying into their coffee this morning, Trump’s utter capitulation to Paul Ryan here represents a massive step forward for his campaign. Why should we cheer Trump’s acceptance of Ryan’s vision?
Because first and foremost, it is a good plan. Regardless of who is elected President, the vast majority of the Better Way plan deserves implementation. That we have a candidate now willing to say so and embrace it wholesale represents a glimmer of hope for the national conversation around an otherwise, dreary, personality based campaign season.
The Better Way plan offers a bevy of ideas on taxation, with acknowledgements towards the broader goals of both sides—tax cuts and simplification for Republicans, and loophole closures for Democrats. The plan could easily be passed and signed either by a President Trump or a President Clinton if she decided to secure her legacy by governing as a moderate the way her husband eventually did rather than go down in the flames of hyper partisanship as her predecessor in the office has.
Democrats have repeatedly tried to characterize this plan as “tax cuts for the wealthy”. This represents them fundamentally misunderstanding the plan, most likely because those making these attacks have either never read the plan, or they simply do not understand the way taxes work because they enough to simply hand a stack of papers to a CPA and limply sign their names.
Of course, if they are smart enough and informed enough for understand and have read the plan and still characterize it in this fashion, then they are lying and reveal themselves as wicked men of low moral character spreading specious falsehoods. We can trust the main stream media not to be a partisan propaganda branch, right?
So what exactly does #BetterWay do for the American people? Until it is passed and signed into law, nothing, clearly. It exists right now in a “white paper” format- much the same as Obamacare before the election. A series of documents laying out the key issues with our current system, the key reforms, and the areas where committees will need to hammer out the details as it is drafted into law. In this case the plan relies on the Ways & Means committee to fill in the blanks.
But, even in this simplified form I understand that most won’t bother to read #BetterWay, so I will bring to you now the highlights of the “Trump” tax plan (which is really the Ryan tax plan, Ryan having cleverly “cucked” Trump to borrow Trump supporter’s own language- Trump opens his mouth, and Ryan’s tax plan spills out.)
So why should you care about and support the #BetterWay tax plan? Here are three reasons. . .
- #BetterWay doubles the standard deduction.
Did you itemize on your taxes last year? I’m guessing unless you are a business owner or in a relatively high tax bracket the answer to this question is “no.” #BetterWay takes the current standard deduction (roughly 6,000 for singles and 12,000 for couples) and doubles it to 12,000 for singles, 18,000 for singles with dependents, and 24,000 for married couples. Would you like an extra 6,000 bucks? Sure, who wouldn’t? #BetterWay provides tax relief to low and lower middle incomes by giving them a larger chunk to deduct without having to expend money for this, that, the other and make sure you save the receipt or it’ll be Audit City up in here.
For those of who that live the way I and many other millennials live, that is who grab the standard deduction then spend the year trying to minimize what would be deductible expenditures, considering the difference between what we spend and the 6,000 we get to claim question free found money, this is a massive tax cut. This also creates an incentive for better behavior—it rewards those who consume effectively and efficiently, rather than a perverse set of deductions that punishes savers, penny-pinchers, and down-sizers by paying their opposites for unnecessary consumption. Take another look at your taxes last year.
Even if you itemized deductions, which assumes your deductions make up more than $6,000 they very well might not crack the new $12,000 deduction. So you itemized for $10,000 last year—this new deduction is still a tax break for you, albeit not as large a one as the person who did not itemize. Best of all, these new standard deductions will be indexed to inflation, meaning the value of these tax cuts will never degrade in the future.
- #BetterWay reduces deductions to make the code fairer and make the rich pay their fair share.
So, we’ve doubled the standard deduction to cut taxes for the poor, but let’s cut out all those “loopholes” that the rich use to “not pay their fair share.” Yes, #BetterWay drops the top tax raw rates, but if you do choose to itemize deductions now, as an individual you get to deduct only two things—mortgage interest on your primary residence and charitable donations. Take a look at a politician’s tax return. Take Bernie Sanders’ return for instance. Keep in mind now, Sanders is in the top 1% of all earners. He is what he has spent his career railing against and he paid an effective tax rate of less than 13% on his over $200,000.
The Sanders deducted these two things to the tune of roughly $33,000 dollars. (23K in mortgage interest and 10K in charitable donations). Now under #BetterWay the Sanders family could keep these two deductions, and still itemize to the tune of about $9,000 dollars past the new standard deduction of $24,000.
But Bernie and Jill didn’t stop there on their itemization. They also claims $14,843 on real-estate taxes, $9,666 in state and local taxes, and $4,473 in “business expenses”. This adds up to total of $28,982 dollars which would be tax eligible under the new system.
That’s right folks, #BetterWay raises taxes on the rich by eliminating thousands of dollars in loopholes that they can use that you just don’t make enough to take for your own advantage. This asks those making a few hundred thousand to a few million dollars a year to pay both their local, state, and Federal governments rather than letting them deduct the amount of their real-estate, local, and state taxes from their Federal income.
This can help level the playing field by removing the backwards incentives for big suburban wealthy school districts to raise taxes, knowing that their constituents just deduct these on the backend and effectively rob Federal money to transfer it to wealthy school districts and municipalities.This plan asks millionaires and billionaires to pay for their own unreimbursed business expenses rather than to shift the bill onto the government.This plan, in its raw simplicity asks for the rich to pay their fair share.
Yes, there are still deductions, and yes, the rich will still benefit from these simplified amounts more than the middle class. However, since they exist in such a narrow sphere this Federal subsidy for behavior exists only for things truly worthy of subsidizing.First, mortgage interest subsidizes home ownership, long considered an ideal for governmental policy. But, the #BetterWay plan would put more limits on this than currently exists (and this does currently exist, clearly). Under #BetterWay you could only deduct interest to certain limits, and only for a single familial residence.
Yes, current loans are exempted/grandfathered in theory, but going forward the ultra-wealthy won’t be able to deduct interest on each of a dozen properties. Had we passed #BetterWay last year, Bernie Sanders would still be able to deduct the $23,000 he paid in interest on his existing two mansions, but not the interest on that new $600,000 mansion he just bought to serve as his third home. No, the limits to this deduction would direct as much of the benefits it provides to families with a single home commensurate to their ability to pay for that home. Which is what we really want anyways, right?
The second surviving deduction is of course the charitable giving deduction. I think we can all agree that the millions of dollars that the rich give to causes ranging from cancer research, to community enrichment, to anti-poverty efforts are worthy of allowing a deduction? I mean, perhaps the money going to scam organizations like the Clinton Foundation shouldn’t be, but providing a subsidy for people who want to give heavily to the American Red Cross is probably ok, right? What’s the worst that this incentive causes? More generous rich people?
No, #BetterWay removes many existing loopholes from the personal tax code, and leaves only those that are truly worth preserving in place.
- #BetterWay simplifies taxes to a form you can both understand and file yourself.
Want your $300 bucks back from H&R Block? #BetterWay offers it to you, but bringing the tax filing process into a form that you can file yourself.
I’ve filed my own taxes each of the last four years. I’ve used a variety of forms, typically the 1040. There is a 1040EZ” but I’ve never qualified to use that form because my (relatively simple) taxes were “too complex” to file on the EZ form.
That would be why many, many people feel the need to pay a CPA or a big corporate institution like H&R Block to help. But #BetterWay offers hope! The new tax form is simpler than even today’s “EZ” form. Trust me when I say that the new form if you’ve read this far into my article, you can file your own taxes. There are only 14 lines and they tell you the math to do as you go.
Wages, add half investment income, subtract savings plan contributions, subtract standard deduction OR subtract mortgage interest rate and subtract charitable contribution, taxable income, preliminary tax from table, subtract child credit, subtract earned income credit, subtract higher education credit, total tax, subtract taxes withheld, refund due / taxes owed.
There you have it. 48 words, one table to reference for tax, two possibilities for deductions, three credits, and the subtraction to get your refund or liability. Figured exactly in order from top to bottom for every American.
I’ve been incredibly critical of Donald Trump. Current trends don’t suggest he will win the election, and I still could not vote for him. He needed to start making these kind of speeches six months ago and acknowledging then that he’d let better, smarter men like Paul Ryan lead (hasn’t “I hire the best people” been a campaign theme all along?) Instead he has spent that time feuding with Ryan, feuding with John McCain, attacking Ted Cruz, attacking gold star families, retweeting Nazis, cozying up with the Ruskies, and a dozen other scandals and gaffes. I had this article half written when he decided to make his Hillary 2nd Amendment comments, so as Ben Shapiro would say we get some good Trump (accepting Paul Ryan’s #BetterWay) and we get a whole lot of bad.