Business Cents: The Republican Tax Reform Plan
What is in it? What could its changes mean for you, if they become law?
Provided by Garrett German
Major changes may be ahead for federal tax law. At the start of November, House Republicans rolled out their plan for sweeping tax reforms. Negotiations may greatly alter the content of the bill, but here are the proposed adjustments, and who may and may not benefit from them if they become law.
The corporate tax rate would fall from 35% to 20%. Wall Street would cheer this development, perhaps with a significant rally. Sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S corporations would also see their top tax rate drop to 25% (although W-2 wages for business owners who invest in these pass-through entities would still be taxed at the owner’s marginal tax rate).
The estate tax and Alternative Minimum Tax would be eliminated. The AMT would die immediately, saving more than 5 million high-earning taxpayers from an annual bother. Death taxes would sunset within six years, and in the interim, the estate tax exemption would be doubled, leaving the individual exemption at about $11 million. This would be a boon for many highly successful people and their heirs.
Personal exemptions would go away, but the standard deduction would nearly double. The loss of the personal income tax exemption (currently $4,050 per individual claimed) would be countered by standard deductions of $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples. This could lessen the tax burden for many middle-class households. On the downside, the larger standard deduction might reduce the incentive to donate to charity.
Only four income tax brackets would exist. While the top marginal tax rate would remain at 39.6%, the other brackets would be set at 12%, 25%, and 35%. Individuals earning $45,000 or less and spouses with combined earnings of $90,000 or less would fall into the 12% bracket. Households earning less than $260,000 would be in the 25% bracket. The individual threshold for the 39.6% bracket would be moved up to $501,000 from the current $418,401; it would apply to couples who earn more than $1 million.
Some state and local tax deductions might vanish. Taxpayers who face higher state income tax rates – such as those living in New York, California, and New Jersey – could lose a big tax break here. The reform bill’s author, House Ways & Means Committee Chair Kevin Brady (R-TX), says that a new revision to the bill would at least let homeowners deduct state and local property taxes up to a $10,000 cap.
Speaking of caps, the mortgage interest deduction would be halved to $500,000. Real estate investors, developers, and agents are unhappy with this idea, as the current $1 million mortgage interest deduction has helped to spur home buying.
Some key itemized credits and deductions would disappear. Among those the bill would do away with: the medical expense deduction, the moving deduction, the student loan interest deduction, the deduction on alimony payments, the electric vehicle deduction, and the tax credit drug manufacturers rely on as they undertake clinical trials. Retirees, divorcees, college grads, and pharmaceutical companies could see some financial negatives.
Private college endowments would be taxed. With the aim of generating $3 billion in revenue over the next ten years, the bill would impose a 1.4% federal excise tax on private colleges and universities with 500 or more students and assets equivalent to or greater than $100,000 per full-time student.
The Child Tax Credit would grow. Families eligible to claim the credit would see it rise to $1,600 from the current $1,000.
Hardship withdrawals from workplace retirement plans could become larger. Currently, plan participants who take hardship withdrawals are only allowed to withdraw their contributions, not both their contributions and earnings. The new reform bill would lift that restriction. In addition, a worker with an outstanding loan from a workplace retirement plan who loses his or her job would have until April 15 of the following year to repay the loan balance, as opposed to the current 60 days.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.