Understanding the GOP Tax Plan

House Republicans released a bill on Nov. 2 that would make major changes to the tax code.

There are a few key takeaways from the plan so far, including sweeping tax cuts with little loopholes eliminated, substantial tax cuts for large and small businesses, and significant changes to individual filing deductions.

Much of the debate on Capitol Hill, primarily along partisan lines, has been centered around which socioeconomic class will fare better under the Republican plan. Though it is too soon to tell without enough detail from Congress, one thing is certain, businesses will be better off than tax payers.

The bill would reduce the current marginal income tax brackets from seven to four — 12, 25, 35 and 39.6 percent — and lower taxes by increasing the income levels within each bracket.

The top rate remains the same as it is under the current tax code, except the income level to which it would apply would increase from $480,050 under current law for married couples to $1 million.

The bill would repeal the individual Alternative Minimum Tax, a supplemental income tax imposed on individuals that have lower payments for their standard income tax due to exemptions or special circumstances.

The new bill would also maintain preferred rates for investment income, particularly the capital gains tax. It would also repeal the estate tax and meanwhile double the amount of inherited wealth that is exempt from the tax to $11 million from $5.5 million.

The plan would nearly double the amount of the standard deduction, which mostly applies to low-income filers, and eliminate the personal exemption, a deduction based on the number of taxpayers and the dependents claimed on a return.

The new plan would eliminate other deductions except for deductions for mortgage interest, charitable contributions and state and local property taxes.

The biggest deduction that would be eliminated is the one for state and local taxes, meaning individuals would no longer be able to claim this amount on their federal tax returns. That deduction primarily helps people in states where those non-federal taxes are higher.

The corporate tax rate would fall from 35 percent to 20 percent under the plan and eliminate a fair majority of business deductions and credits. The two credits that will remain are the ones for research and development and for low-income housing. A large portion of government revenue comes from the corporate tax, therefore making this cut the most expensive change to the tax code.

In an analysis by the Tax Foundation, a business-friendly tax policy research organization, lowering corporate tax expenditures that don’t change the tax code structure would only benefit to lower the rate from 35 percent to 28.5 percent. Therefore, savings and revenue will have to found elsewhere to cover the cost of the corporate tax cut to 20 percent.

At the Brookings Institute, Molly Reynolds, a Governance Studies Fellow, notes that the Republicans ability to cut taxes will be limited due the Senate Byrd Rule, where the House bill must pass before taking effect as law. This rule ensures that any proposal under the reconciliation process cannot increase the federal deficit after ten years. Therefore, House and Senate Republicans will have to find a way to shift the burden elsewhere, remove some benefits, or increase other sources of government revenue.

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