NEW YORK — Donald Trump’s tax plan would allow millions of Americans to stop paying federal income taxes and instead start sending the government a card proclaiming “I win.” It would cut tax rates for the middle class and eliminate some breaks for Wall Street investors, and the billionaire real estate mogul proclaimed Monday that “it’s going to cost me a fortune, which is actually true.”
Beneath all that bravado, though, the plan looks a lot like a conventional conservative tax proposal, built on the idea that steep tax cuts — including for wealthy Americans — will produce rapid economic growth and a shrinking federal debt.
That formulation makes Trump perhaps the most pronounced example of a trend in the Republican field this year, which finds candidates wrapping traditional Republican tax principles in class-warrior rhetoric meant to appeal to beleaguered workers whose incomes have stagnated over the past quarter-century.
Trump’s proposal, which he announced at Trump Tower and distributed without specifying key details, includes tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations that go beyond what almost every one of Trump’s rivals for the Republican presidential nomination have proposed. It appears possible that Trump’s personal taxes would fall, not rise, under his own plan, depending on the details.
Trump would cut the top income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 25 percent and the top corporate rate from 35 percent to 15 percent — both larger reductions than opponents Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have proposed. He would limit tax deductions for high earners and force multinational corporations to pay a one-time 10 percent tax on cash held overseas.
He would eliminate income taxes entirely for households earning $50,000 a year or less and reduce rates to 10 percent for households earning $100,000 or less. He would also eliminate taxes on inherited wealth and reduce them for investment income, and he would create a 15 percent rate for small-business owners and freelance workers.
Early analyses from outside groups suggest that the plan would add trillions of dollars to the federal debt unless it unleashes enormous growth — Trump estimated that growth could reach as much as 6 percent a year, a number most economists dismiss as implausible for a sustained growth rate — or is paired with deep cuts to government spending. Trump said the plan would begin reducing the deficit after three years, a claim many analysts disputed immediately.
The size of the tax cuts surprised many conservative economists and activists who had criticized Trump’s soak-the-rich rhetoric on the campaign trail. On Monday, they raved about his plan.
“This is dead-center Reagan Republican tax thinking,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, which advocates lower taxes and limited government. “If you put the Trump plan up for a vote in the House and Senate, every Republican would support it.”
Stephen Moore, an economist who is a co-founder of the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, a group that is pushing candidates to embrace tax-cutting economic proposals, said he was “very pleasantly surprised” by a plan he called “Reaganesque.”
“Who would have known Donald Trump was a supply-sider?” he said.
Trump hadn’t sounded much like a supply-side conservative on taxes until now. At times, he sounded as if he were running in the Democratic primary.
He supports renegotiating trade deals and levying tariffs on imported goods from China, Japan and Mexico — counter to conservative orthodoxy. Previewing his tax plan this month in the second GOP debate, he warned: “The hedge-fund guys won’t like me as much as they like me right now.” He added: “I know people that are making a tremendous amount of money and paying virtually no tax, and I think it’s unfair.”
Trump pressed similar points Monday at his news conference amid the opulence of Trump Tower, his 68-story all-glass skyscraper on Manhattan’s pricey Fifth Avenue. Behind him was a shop carrying his daughter’s jewelry line. To his left, the Trump Shop was selling his books and “Make America Great Again” hats, plus Trump-branded tennis balls, teddy bears and candy bars.
Before the news conference began, the tower’s escalators and waterfall were switched off. No fewer than a dozen security officers in dark suits kept an eye on the candidate while dozens of tourists gawked.
“Too few Americans are working,” Trump told reporters. “Too many jobs are being shipped overseas. And too many middle-
income families cannot make ends meet. This plan directly meets these challenges and the challenges also of business.”
“This is my wheelhouse,” he added later. “That’s what I do well. The economy is what I do well.”
Trump declined to tell reporters whose advice he had sought in composing the plan, and his campaign did not respond to requests for more information about the proposal.
Liberal economists roundly panned the plan, and so did some conservatives. Michael Strain, an economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, called it “totally unserious” in its claims that it won’t add to the deficit, and “cartoonish” in its proposal to allow about 75 million Americans to send the Internal Revenue Service a one-page form declaring “I win” in lieu of tax liability.
“It is tax policy as emotional populism,” Strain said. “It uses words that some people will like, but those words are not connected to reality.”
Tankersley reported from Washington. David Weigel in Washington contributed to this report.