Policy Prescriptions: Clinton and Trump on taxes

WASHINGTON – One group of Americans will likely see huge changes to their tax bills after this year’s presidential election: the wealthiest 1 per cent.

They will see a big tax increase if Hillary Clinton wins, or enjoy a huge tax cut if Donald Trump wins.

For everyone else? Both candidates are proposing very small tax cuts.

Tax policy is one of the issues on which the two nominees differ most.

“In almost every meaningful respect these plans are mirror images,” said Len Burman, a former Treasury official under President Bill Clinton who is director of the Tax Policy Center, a joint project between two nonpartisan Washington think tanks.

Here are summaries of their proposals:



TRUMP: Would cut the top income tax bracket to 33 per cent from its current level of 39.6 per cent and would cap tax deductions at $200,000 per household. The wealthy would benefit most from his overall tax proposals, with the top 1 per cent of income earners receiving, on average, a tax cut of $214,690 in 2017, according to the Tax Policy Center. The top 0.1 per cent would get a tax cut of more than $1 million.

CLINTON: Would increase taxes on the wealthy in several ways: She is proposing a 4 per cent surcharge on incomes above $5 million, effectively creating a new top bracket of 43.6 per cent. And those earning more than $1 million a year would be subject to a minimum 30 per cent tax rate. She would also cap the value of many tax deductions for wealthier taxpayers. About 92 per cent of her tax increases would fall on the top 1 per cent.

All the changes would increase taxes in 2017 for the richest 1 per cent by $117,760, reducing their after-tax income by 7.4 per cent, according to the TPC. Taxes for the top 0.1 per cent would increase more than $800,000.



TRUMP: Would reduce the seven tax brackets in current law to three, at 12 per cent, 25 per cent and 33 per cent. On average, middle-income households would receive a tax cut of $1,010, lifting their after-tax income 1.8 per cent, the TPC says.

Yet some middle- and lower-income households would see tax increases. That’s because his plan eliminates the personal exemption, which currently allows households to reduce their taxable income by $4,050 for each member of the household, including children.

He would replace that with higher standard deductions, but for many single parents and families with three or more children, the standard deduction wouldn’t be large enough to offset the loss of personal exemptions. Trump would also eliminate the head of household filing status, which could result in higher taxes for many single parents.

CLINTON: Her proposals would have little impact on the bottom 95 per cent of taxpayers. Middle-income taxpayers would receive a tax cut of $110 in 2017.



TRUMP: Would cut the corporate rate from its current 35 per cent to 15 per cent. It’s unclear, however, if he’d allow “pass-through” corporations, which pay taxes on revenue as personal income, to claim the 15 per cent rate. Doing so would cost an extra $1.5 trillion, according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, which supports lower tax rates.

CLINTON: Would not change the corporate tax rate.



TRUMP: Managers for private equity firms and hedge funds can classify their investment profits as “carried interest” and pay capital gains taxes on their income at rates that can be as low as half the regular income tax rate. Trump says he would eliminate the loophole, but hedge fund and private equity managers would be able to pay even lower tax rates should Trump let pass-throughs enjoy his lower 15 per cent business tax rate.

CLINTON: Would eliminate the loophole and tax carried interest as ordinary income.



TRUMP: Would eliminate the so-called “death tax” that is currently levied on estates worth more than $5.45 million ($10.9 million for married couples).

CLINTON: Would apply it to more estates, starting with those worth $3.5 million ($7 million for married couples). She would raise the tax rate from 40 per cent to 45 per cent for estates worth between $3.5 million and $10 million. There would be three additional brackets for larger estates, including a 65 per cent rate for estates worth $500 million or more ($1 billion for couples).



TRUMP: Argues his steep cut in the corporate tax rate would end the practice of corporate “inversions,” which occur when a U.S. company acquires a foreign corporation, then relocates overseas to avoid paying U.S. corporate taxes. The U.S. corporate tax rate of 35 per cent is the highest in the developed world, though many companies use deductions and other strategies to avoid paying that amount.

CLINTON: Would discourage inversions by making it harder for a U.S. company to classify itself as foreign-owned to avoid U.S. taxation.



TRUMP: Wants to make child care costs tax-deductible, subject to caps based on income and the average price of child care in a state. It would apply to stay-at-home parents as well. Would expand the Earned Income Tax Credit to benefit lower-income earners who pay little or no income tax. Current law allows parents to claim a credit of up to $6,000 for child care expenses. He’d also let families put aside money in tax-exempt accounts to pay for child care.

CLINTON: Wants to limit child care expenses to 10 per cent of a family’s income through a combination of expanded government spending and tax credits. Has proposed expanding the current $1,000 child tax credit to $2,000 and making it available even to those with $3,000 or less in income, making it more beneficial for the poor.


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EDITOR’S NOTE _ One in an AP series examining the policy prescriptions offered by the major candidates for president.