The Basics of the GOP Tax Plan, Explained
The GOP didn't fulfill their promise of simplifying the tax code-you're not going to be able to file your taxes on a postcard any time soon, and experts say changes to business rates will likely lead more people to try to game the system. But they did change the number of tax brackets from seven to...seven and eliminate some popular deductions .
When It Takes Effect
The tax plan starts to take effect January 1, 2018, meaning it doesn't affect the
Tax brackets, for example, change on January 1, 2018, to the following:
The IRS announced that workers could begin seeing the difference in withholding in their paychecks as early as February. The new brackets expire after 2025. As Marc Goldwein, senior policy director for the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, told Vox , "People get eight years of tax reform."
The individual mandate for health insurance will be repealed starting in 2019, meaning if you don't purchase health insurance next year you're still liable for the penalty. The Congressional Budget Office estimates 4 million fewer people in 2019 and 13 million fewer in 2027 will have health insurance as a result.
The Tax Cuts You Can Expect on Average
Republicans are hailing the legislation as a major victory for the middle class. In the very near term, the middle class will benefit: All income groups will receive a cut, on average, in 2018, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center , which estimates the average cut will be $1,600 in 2018 .
How does this work?
- Standard deduction: For many people, the standard deduction will be essentially doubled, from $6,350 for individuals to $12,000, and from $12,700 for married couples filing jointly to $24,000. You won't see this change until you file your taxes in April 2019.
Child tax credit:
Another benefit to many middle class workers is the doubling of the child tax credit to $2,000 for dependents under 17, $1,400 of which is refundable (meaning if the credit is larger than your federal income tax liability, you can receive a refund of up to $1,400). More high-income earners will also qualify for this credit now. This expires in 2025.
(You can also reduce your
tax billby up to $500 for other dependents, like children over 17 and elderly relatives.)
- Personal exemptions: Personal exemptions, which reduce your taxable income, are eliminated. Currently, you're allowed to claim a $4,050 personal exemption for yourself, your spouse, and your dependents (up to a certain amount ). The doubling of the standard deduction could go a long way to make up for this, but the elimination could negate the benefits for families with three or more kids.
But the bill is much more of a win for the wealthiest Americans and business owners. One of the main criticisms of the plan is that the tax cuts are not allocated equally across the income spectrum. Taxpayers earning between $308,000 and $733,000 would receive the largest tax cut. According to TCP , middle-income taxpayers (those making between about $49,000 and $86,000) would pay about $900 less (or about 1.6% of after-tax income) in 2018, while those earning $733,000 and up would get an average tax cut of roughly $50,000 (or 3.4% of their after-tax income). I f you earn $65,000, you'll save about $930 in 2018, per TCP . If you make $500,000, you'll save around $13,480.
The exception to wealthier people benefitting disproportionately is that the bill caps the deduction for state and local taxes (also known as SALT) at $10,000 (this includes income and property taxes). Currently it's unlimited. If you're a rich person in a blue state with high state and local taxes (like New Jersey or New York), you could lose out on some of that tax break.
The very rich also win with a change to the estate tax. Currently, estates worth $5,490,000 pay a 40% federal tax on inherited property (in 2013, this affected 0.2% of estates, or around 4,700 of the 2.6 million total deaths in the United States). Now, estates of up to $10 million will be exempted from the tax. So if you stand to inherit an estate between $5.5 and $10 million, congrats on your new tax break.
For businesses, it's all good news. The corporate rate will drop from 35% to 21% next year. Plus, individuals will be able to deduct 20% of their qualified business income from a partnership, S corporation or sole proprietorship (also known as pass-through income ).
Corporate tax cuts are permanent, while the personal provisions expire after 2025 (Republicans have said they will renew them when the time comes). The Tax Policy Center estimates that 53% of people will actually pay more in taxes by 2027.
How the Tax Bill Will Be Paid For
The bill adds over $1.46 trillion to deficits over a decade, according to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, with virtually no mechanisms to offset those losses.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has long wanted to cut social programs and pursue "entitlement reform," which means cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, and has said he will look at those to reduce the deficit. Senator Marco Rubio, too, has said Medicare and Social Security will need to be rejiggered to pay for the deficit created by cutting taxes, "in a way that doesn't impact current retirees or people about to retire, but in a way that would probably impact it for me and people younger than me." (Trump has repeatedly said he will not touch the programs.)
This is another criticism of the bill: It is true that the average person will get $1,600 cut for 2018. (You can use this calculator to get a better idea of how you'll specifically be affected.) But it's also true that if the increased deficit resultant from the bill is used as the reason to restructure Social Security and Medicare, younger people are likely going to be out a lot more than $1,600.
There's also the repeal of the individual mandate to consider. The CBO estimates that poor people will end up paying more than whatever tax relief they receive because "average premiums in the individual market would increase by about 10 percent" as healthy people forego coverage. For a family of four that does not receive a subsidy, that means an annual premium increase of $1,990 for benchmark plan coverage, according to the Center for American Progress.
You can see the effects of this in the table above, where positive numbers indicate increased taxes or spending: The poorest will spend more, while most of the gains go to the richest families.
How It Will Affect the Economy
Supporters of the bill swear that cutting taxes for corporations will supercharge the economy, encouraging businesses to increase wages and reinvest in the U.S. Many people are, rightfully, skeptical of this.
Some companies have announced one-time bonuses to some employees since the bill passed, crediting the tax bill with their ability to do so. The truth, as always, is more complicated. For example, just as AT&T gave $200 million in holiday bonuses last week, it's been cutting potentially thousands of jobs . And a bonus isn't the same as a raise.
It's more likely that the cuts will benefit shareholders and investors, as Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan said , in the form of shareholder payouts. In fact, executives already told us what they would do with the money they save, and it wasn't invest in their employees: a Bank of America Merrill Lynch survey this summer of more than 300 U.S. corporations asked what they would do if tax legislation allowed them to bring money held overseas back to the U.S. at a low tax rate, which the bill does. The top answers were: paying down debt, repurchasing stocks, and mergers.
So older, wealthier people earning money off of investments will doubly luck out: they'll reap the benefits while facing none of the future consequences of the cuts. For younger Americans, it won't shake out as well.