UPDATE: After this article was published, the Tax Policy Center corrected its analysis. This article is based on the newer, corrected version of the report, released November 8.
The House Republican tax bill would cause slightly more than 25 percent of taxpayers to pay more by 2027, according to a new analysis by the widely respected, nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
On average, the analysis finds, every income group would see lower taxes in 2018. About 56.6 percent of the cuts would go to the richest fifth of taxpayers, with nearly 21 percent going to the top 1 percent — less regressive than some past GOP plans, but still a noticeable upward tilt.
The poorest families, earning less than $10,000 a year, would see a minuscule tax cut of only $10 on average. The richest, earning $1 million or more, would get $57,400 on average.
However, the averages conceal the fact that a minority of households would see taxes go up right away. Slightly more than 7 percent of taxpayers would pay more taxes in 2018, with tax hikes concentrated among the richest Americans. Nearly a third of the top 0.1 percent (families earning $3.4 million or more) would see a tax hike in 2018:
That picture changes dramatically in 2027. The Republican plan slowly phases in some tax increases for the middle class, including a new inflation measure used to change thresholds for tax brackets. A tax credit of $300 per adult, meant to replace personal exemptions, would expire after only five years. It also phases in elimination of the estate tax, a change that exclusively helps the hyperwealthy:
Those provisions mean that in 2027, the bill is considerably more regressive, with 73.2 percent of benefits going to the richest fifth and 47.2 percent to the top 1 percent.
In 2027, the poorest 40 percent of the country would see a tax increase on average. In total, slightly more than 25 percent of households would pay more in 2027 under the plan than they’re currently set to pay. That includes nearly half of households making between $225,400 and $304,600, the 90th to 95th percentiles.
While the tax increases for the lower and middle classes are explained by the loss of the $300 tax credit and the inflation adjustment change, for wealthier people the effect is mostly due to the loss of major itemized deductions. The Republican tax plan would eliminate the state and local income tax deduction and expand the standard deduction. The latter leads fewer people to choose to itemize.
This effectively undermines itemized deductions as a whole, TPC finds.
“Many higher-income taxpayers with a tax increase are affected by the loss of itemized deductions,” the report explains. “Because the legislation substantially increases the standard deduction and repeals many itemized deductions — including the deduction for state and local income and sales taxes — the number of taxpayers who elect to itemize compared to current law would fall by 75 percent in 2018 (to 12.5 million tax units) and by 65 percent in 2027 (to 20 million tax units).”
This confirms what we knew: this tax plan helps the wealthy
The Tax Policy Center has come in for considerable criticism, even abuse, from the Trump administration, Republicans in Congress, and their allies in the press for its role examining the impact of Republican tax proposals on the poor, middle class, and rich.
The TPC’s reports have usually found that Republican tax proposals disproportionately help the rich. They reach this conclusion because these proposals do, in fact, disproportionately help the rich. But that hasn’t stopped Trump chief economist Kevin Hassett from accusing the group of “behav[ing] irresponsibly” by issuing its reports.
However, Congress’s own number crunchers in the Joint Committee on Taxation have reached similar conclusions. JCT released a distributional analysis of most of the bill (except estate tax repeal) last Friday, and when you combine that analysis with what we know about estate tax repeal, you get a picture very similar to the one TPC arrives at:
Indeed, the JCT calculations imply an even larger tax cut for the wealthiest by 2027.
So far we’ve had two analyses of the tax bill’s effects by groups known for their lack of a political bent and their rigor in simulating the revenue and distributional consequences of tax legislation.
Both analyses arrive at the same conclusion: The tax bill’s combination of tax cuts for corporations and high-income individuals and targeted increases for other individuals lead to a bill that’s regressive overall.
The tax bill, explained
The tax bill, explained with cartoons and cereal
Why the middle-class tax cuts in the bill go away over time
A lot of the bill’s problems come from its super-low 20 percent corporate rate, which is a significant cause of its high cost and regressivity.
An undercovered aspect of the bill is its elimination of the medical expense deduction, which would affect a number of families in medical crises.