As we anticipated, any change in Presidential Administration comes with the possibility, indeed the likelihood, of tax law changes, and the election of Donald Trump is no exception. During the campaign, President-elect Trump outlined a number of tax proposals for both individuals and businesses. Although a candidate’s proposals can, and often do, change over the course of a campaign not to mention after taking office, the following highlights some of Trump’s tax proposals.
Additionally, the end of the year has the potential to bring some tax law changes before President Obama leaves office. We also highlight some of those possible changes with an eye on how late tax legislation could impact year-end tax planning.
The President-elect, in his campaign materials, highlighted several goals of tax reform:
- Tax relief for middle class Americans
- Simplify the Tax Code
- Grow the American economy
- Do not add to the debt or deficit
President-elect Trump also identified during the campaign a number of tax-related proposals that he intends to pursue during his first 100 days in office:
- The Middle Class Tax Relief and Simplification Act: According to Trump, the legislation would provide middle class families with two children a 35 percent tax cut and lower the “business tax rate” from 35 percent to 15 percent.
- Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act: A proposal described by Trump during the campaign that would allow individuals to deduct childcare and elder care from their taxes, incentivize employers to provide on-site childcare and create tax-free savings accounts for children and elderly dependents.
- Repeal and Replace Obamacare Act: A proposal made by Trump during the campaign to fully repeal the ACA.
- American Energy and Infrastructure Act: A proposal described by Trump during the campaign that “leverages public-private partnerships, and private investments through tax incentives, to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years.”
Individual Income Taxes
The last change made to the individual income tax rates was in the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA), which raised the top individual income tax rate. Under ATRA, the current individual income tax rates are 10, 15, 25, 28, 33, 35, and 39.6 percent. During the campaign, President-elect Trump proposed a new rate structure of 12, 25 and 33 percent:
- Current rates of 10 percent and 15 percent = 12 percent under new rate structure.
- Current rates of 25 percent and 28 percent = 25 percent under new rate structure.
- Current rates of 33 percent, 35 percent and 39.6 percent = 33 percent under new rate structure.
This rate structure mirrors one proposed by House Republicans earlier this year. During the campaign, President-elect Trump did not detail the precise income levels within which each bracket percentage would fall, instead generally estimating for joint returns a 12-percent rate on income up to $75,000; a 25-percent rate for income between $75,000 and $225,000; and 33 percent on income more than $225,000 (brackets for single filers will be half those dollar amounts) and “low-income Americans” would have a 0-percent rate.
Closely-related to the individual income tax rates are the capital gains and dividend tax rates. The current capital gains rate structure, imposed based upon income tax brackets, would presumably be re-aligned to fit within President-elect Trump’s proposed percent income tax bracket levels.
AMT and More
President-elect Trump proposed during the campaign to repeal the alternative minimum tax (AMT). The last time that Congress visited the AMT lawmakers voted to retain the tax but to provide for inflation-adjusted exemption amounts.
During the campaign, Trump proposed to repeal the federal estate and gift tax. The unified federal estate and gift tax currently starts for estates valued at $5.490 million for 2017 (essentially double at $10.980 million for married individuals), Trump, however, also proposed a “carryover basis” rule for inherited stock and other assets from estates of more than $10 million. This additional proposal has already been criticized by some Republican members of Congress, while some Democrats have raised repeal of the federal estate tax as a non-starter.
Other proposals made during the campaign would limit itemized deductions, eliminate the head-of-household filing status, and eliminate all personal exemptions. President-elect Trump also has called for increasing the standard deduction. Under Trump’s plan, the standard deduction would increase to $15,000 (from $6,350) for single individuals and to $30,000 ($12,700) for married couples filing jointly, as adjusted for inflation.
President-elect Trump also discussed possible new family-oriented tax breaks during the campaign. These include the creation of dependent care savings accounts, changes to earned income tax credit, and enhanced deductions for child care and eldercare.
The Affordable care Act (ACA) created a number of new taxes that impact both individuals and businesses. These taxes range from an excise tax on medical devices to taxes on high-dollar health insurance plans. The ACA also created the net investment income (NII) tax and the Additional Medicare Tax, both of which generally impact higher income taxpayers. The ACA also made significant changes to the medical expense deduction and other rules that affect individuals. For individuals and employers, the ACA created new mandates to carry or offer insurance, or otherwise pay a penalty.
President-elect Trump made repeal of the ACA one of the centerpieces of his campaign. Post-election, it appears that the president-elect is open to retaining some of the ACA. The president-elect has mentioned coverage for children under age 26 as one provision of the ACA that he views favorably.
Business Tax Proposals
On the business front, President-elect Trump focused on small businesses, the corporate tax rate, and some international proposals during his campaign with an interest in simplification, and the reduction, of taxes for small business.
Particularly for small businesses, Trump has proposed a doubling of the Code Sec. 179 small business expensing election to $1 million. Trump has also proposed the immediate deduction of all new investments in a business, which has also been endorsed by Congressional tax reform/simplification advocates.
The current corporate tax rate is 35 percent. President-elect Trump called during the campaign for a reduction in the corporate tax rate to 15 percent. He also proposed sharing that rate with owners of “pass through” entities (sole proprietorships, partnerships and S corporations), but only for profits that are put back into the business.
Based on campaign materials, a one-time reduced rate would also be available to encourage companies to repatriate earnings of foreign subsidiaries that are held offshore. Many more details about these corporate and international tax proposals are expected.
Congress will soon meet for a “lame duck” session and is expected to take up tax legislation. Exactly what tax legislation Congress will consider before year-end remains to be seen. Every lawmaker has his or her “key” legislation to advance before the year-end. They include:
- Legislation to renew some expiring tax extenders, especially energy extenders.
- Legislation to fund the federal government, including the IRS, through the end of the 2017 fiscal year.
- Legislation to enhance retirement savings for individuals.
- Legislation to help citrus farmers, small businesses and more.
Some of these bills, if passed and signed into law, could impact year-end tax planning. The expiring extenders include the popular higher tuition and fees deduction along with some targeted business incentives.
Another facet of year-end tax planning is looking ahead. President-elect Trump has proposed some significant changes to the Tax Code for individuals and businesses. If these proposals become law, especially any reduction in income tax rates, and are made retroactive to January 1, 2017, your tax planning definitely needs to be reviewed to maximize any potential tax savings.
Working with Congress
Looking to 2017, tax reform legislation will likely have its start in the House Ways and Means Committee. In the House, Republicans have already unveiled a tax reform blueprint. There are similarities between the House GOP blueprint and President-elect Trump’s tax proposals. For example, both call for reducing the federal income tax rates for individuals along with lowering the corporate tax rate.
It remains to be seen however, what compromises will be necessary between Congress and the Trump Administration to find common ground. In particular, too, compromise will likely be needed to bring onboard both GOP fiscal conservatives who will want revenue offsets to pay for tax reduction, and Senate Democrats who have the filibuster rule to prevent passage of tax bills with fewer than 60 votes. And beyond considering tax proposals one tax bill at a time, it remains to be seen whether proposals can be packaged within a broader mandate for “tax reform” and “tax simplification.”