True reform will require a bipartisan consensus around closing loopholes to pay for the lowering of statutory tax rates paid by businesses, and reducing burdens on working families. Changing tax law must be done in a fiscally responsible way, without cutting taxes for the very wealthy.
First, changes in the tax rates for individuals must at least maintain the current levels of progressivity
- Cutting tax rates for the very wealthy would deepen the income inequality that underlies the anxiety and anger among American voters. If Congress doesn’t preserve or increase progressivity, we won’t have the resources to pay for investments like infrastructure and child care.
- .. Congress must also maintain the estate tax, which is levied only on estates worth more than $5.49 million ($10.98 million for a couple), affects only the wealthiest 0.2 percent and protects small businesses, including family farmers.
- .. Many of the estates that are taxed have assets that have increased in value but have never been subject to capital gains tax, and never will be. The idea that the estate tax imposes double taxation is largely a myth.
- Second, tax cuts must be offset by revenue-raising measures. With the country in the ninth year of an economic recovery, the case for pure stimulus is weak, and digging a deep hole of debt by cutting taxes will make it harder to pay for other priorities.
- Tax cuts need to be revenue neutral, paid for by reducing tax subsidies, ending loopholes or generating new revenue.
- Third, Congress should rely on its Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office to estimate what a tax bill will cost.
- Claims that tax cuts pay for themselves must be treated with great skepticism.
- Such a reckless move would almost surely produce an explosion of debt. In 1981, 2001 and 2003, tax cuts based on projections that they would largely pay for themselves did not, and when deficits soared, future presidents had to make hard choices to restore fiscal stability.
- Fourth, business tax reform must not open up new loopholes for top earners to evade taxes. Proposals to lower the tax rate on “pass-through” income (income that partnerships, sole proprietorships, S corporations and limited-liability companies “pass through” to owners) would create a costly, unpoliceable loophole. Wealthy individuals and businesses could easily reorganize on paper to take advantage of low pass-through rates.
- most pass-through income goes to wealthy individuals and big businesses like hedge funds and large oil and gas pipeline companies organized as limited partnerships.
- Kansas instituted a similar policy in 2012 and repealed it this year after 100,000 new pass-throughs emerged — among them the coach of the University of Kansas basketball team, who had his salary paid to a pass-through entity to escape state income tax. Yet job and economic growth in Kansas lagged that of most neighboring states, evidence that the policy did not produce the growth that supporters promised