Trump's tax plan: business owners win, deficit hawks lose
Small business owners, large corporations and the super wealthy could fare well under President Donald Trump's tax plan. The middle-class could come out ahead, too, but the plan has too many holes to determine how individual taxpayers would be affected.
The plan would reduce the number of tax brackets from seven to three — 12 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent. But it doesn't specify the income levels for each bracket. Those are important details, which will be sorted out by Congress.
Trump is scheduled to unveil his tax plan Wednesday at an event in Indiana. The plan was outlined by senior administration officials who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to be quoted on the details of the framework ahead of the president's remarks.
The plan has more winners than losers, largely because Trump is leaving it to Congress to figure out how to pay for it — or whether to pay for it.
—Corporations. Trump's plan would lower the top corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. This would be a huge tax cut for most corporations, even if their tax breaks are severely limited.
—Business owners who report business income on their individual tax returns. This is the overwhelming majority of American businesses, from small mom-and-pop outfits to large partnerships. The top tax rate for these taxpayers is currently 39.6 percent. Trump's plan would lower the top rate to 25 percent.
—The superrich. Trump's plan would eliminate the federal estate tax. Under current law, the first $11 million of an estate is exempt for a married couple, meaning only the wealthiest Americans pay it.
—U.S.-based international corporations. Trump's plan would end the U.S. practice of taxing the foreign profits of U.S.-based corporations. Under current law, the money is taxed if it is brought back to the U.S.
—The middle-class — maybe. Trump's plan would increase the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for a married couple, presumably eliminating the personal exemption. Under current law, the personal exemption is $4,050 and the standard deduction is $6,300, for a total of $10,350.
This provision would allow middle-class families to shield more of their income from taxation. However, it's impossible to say how they would fare overall because Trump's plan doesn't specify the income levels for each tax bracket. Administration officials said Trump's plan would be "at least as progressive as the current tax code."
—The national debt. Trump's plan doesn't include enough details to precisely project its impact on the government's finances. But the rate cuts for businesses and individuals are sure to add to the nation's mounting debt. Administration officials said the plan would not add to the debt, when economic growth is taken into account. However, many experts say the administration's projections for economic growth are unrealistic.
—Taxpayers who itemize their deductions. About 30 percent of U.S. taxpayers itemize their deductions. The rest take the standard deduction. Trump's plan would eliminate most itemized deductions, with the exception of deductions for mortgage interest and charitable donations. If Trump's plan became law, many of these taxpayers would probably start taking the larger standard deduction.
—U.S.-based international corporations. They show up as winners and losers because Trump's plan would impose a one-time tax on an estimated $2 trillion in foreign profits that U.S. corporations have invested overseas. Trump's plan does not specify a tax rate, leaving it to Congress.
Follow Stephen Ohlemacher on Twitter at http://twitter.com/stephenatap