(Note: For an updated discussion of the final 2017 GOP Tax Plan, see Individual Tax Planning Under The Tax Cuts And Jobs Act Of 2017.)
With the Republican clean sweep of both the White House and both houses of Congress, momentum is building for 2017 to be a major year of tax reform, both for corporations, and for the individuals that financial advisors work with.
Accordingly, in today’s blog post, we delve in depth into both the likelihood of individual tax reform itself, and the details of the proposals from both President Trump, and the House Republicans. In fact, a deeper look reveals significant differences in both the style of tax reform between the President and House GOP proposals, as well as the deficits they imply – which itself could actually prove a stumbling block to getting legislation passed.
Nonetheless, both proposals would drastically simplify the tax brackets, from the current 7 tiers of tax rates, down to just three: 12%, 25%, and a top rate of 33% that kicks in at $225,000 (for married couples, or $112,500 for individuals). Both proposals would still keep preferential rates for capital gains and qualified dividends, although President Trump would retain the current 3 brackets (0%, 15%, and 20%), while the House GOP would simply make the rates 50% of the ordinary tax bracket (which means investment income would be taxed at 6%, 12.5%, and 16.5%).
However, when it comes to deductions, the proposals diverge substantially, with the House GOP suggesting the elimination of virtually all individual tax deductions except the mortgage and charitable deductions (paired with an expanded standard deduction), while President Trump would keep all the current itemized deduction rules, but cap itemized deductions (at $100,000 for individuals, or $200,000 for married couples) while also expanding the standard deduction even more (so only a moderate subset of people between the standard deduction and the cap would ever itemize at all).
Given all these differences, it remains to be seen whether individual tax reform will really happen in 2017, and whether key parts are compromised or delayed to accomplish corporate tax reform instead. In addition, despite now being the minority party in both the House and Senate, the Democrats still retain the ability to filibuster legislation, which will further limit the ability of Republicans to engage in permanent tax reform without compromising some concessions to Democrats. Or alternatively, the Republicans could ultimately pass individual tax reform as budget reconciliation legislation… which, under the Byrd rule, would have to sunset by December 31st of 2026, setting up a reprise of President Bush’s infamous sunset provision on his signature 2001 tax reform!