Donald Trump has called for historic tax relief for the rich, which would likely add trillions of dollars to the national debt. Hillary Clinton would ask the wealthy to pay much more than they do now, and she would use the money mostly to lessen the burden on middle-class families with small children.
A pair of new analyses published Tuesday afternoon by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center emphasize the extreme contrasts between the two candidates when it comes to taxes. In a campaign that has been defined by conspiracy theories, racial innuendos and sex scandals from decades past, the new data is a reminder that the election puts serious money at stake for many American households.
Where Clinton would increase taxes on corporations and investors, Trump would drastically reduce them. He has called for eliminating the estate tax, which Clinton hopes to increase. The Democratic presidential nominee would expand the credit for children, while her Republican rival would eliminate an important tax advantage for families.
"They really couldn’t be more different," Leonard Burman, the director of the center, told reporters in a conference call Tuesday. "In almost every meaningful respect, these plans are mirror images."
By 2025, about 51 percent of the benefits of Trump's tax plan would accrue to the wealthiest percentile of taxpayers, according to the Tax Policy Center's analysis. Those wealthy taxpayers would save $317,000 on average each year, increasing their incomes by more than 14 percent.
Less affluent taxpayers would also benefit, but less so. A typical family would save a little less than $1,100 a year in taxes -- an increase of 1.5 percent in their income. Families with single parents or multiple children, however, could pay more in taxes under Trump's plan.
Reducing taxes on the grand scale that Trump has proposed would mean far less revenue for the federal government. The government would have to either reduce spending, or borrow more to make up the difference.
Trump has promised to identify areas of the federal budget in which he would eliminate spending, Burman noted, but the New York businessman has also pledged to maintain the bulk of public expenditures by ruling out reductions in entitlements and the military.
"There's reason to be skeptical," Burman said.
If the government borrowed all of the money to pay for Trump's tax plan, the deficits and the cost of interest would increase the national debt by $7.2 trillion. By contrast, the figure the center estimated for former Republican nominee Mitt Romney's tax plan four years ago was about $5 trillion.
Trump's advisers have argued that reducing taxes would benefit the broader economy by encouraging Americans to work, save and invest. Any improvement in the economy overall could also create more revenue for the federal government.
Burman, however, pointed out that trillions of dollars in federal deficits would increase interest rates for businesses and consumers who are looking to borrow money, since they would have to compete with the Treasury Department for credit. An increase in interest rates would hold back the economy over time.
"We expect that the Trump plan would provide a short-term boost to the economy," Burman said. "In the long run, the economy would be worse off."
He and his colleagues said they will publish more detailed estimates of the effects of both candidates' plans on the economy in the coming days.
Most of the benefits of Clinton's plan would go to working and middle-class families. For families with children under the age of 5, Clinton would double the maximum yearly value of the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000 for each child.
Clinton has also proposed an expansion of the credit for other families with children up to 17 years old that would primarily benefit poor families.
On average, a typical middle-class family would pay about $200 less in taxes in 2025 under Clinton's proposal, according to the analysis. For the poorest one in five families, the savings would be worth about $100 on average.
These averages alone might be misleading, however, since the benefits for households without children would be limited, and their incomes could even be reduced as a result of the increase in corporate taxes, which would weigh on wages and investment in the broader economy, according to the Tax Policy Center. The center did not provide detailed estimates for families based on the age or number of their children.
By contrast, Clinton has proposed substantial increases in taxes on the wealthy.
By 2025, 93 percent of the new revenue that Clinton would raise would come from the richest 1 percent of Americans, according to the analysis. Households in this group would pay close to $164,000 more each year on average. The additional taxes would reduce their incomes by an average of 7.3 percent.
Almost two-thirds of that revenue would come from the richest 0.1 percent, who would pay an average of $1.1 million more each year, reducing their incomes by almost 11 percent.
In addition to the expanded credits for children, Clinton has also proposed major new public expenditures -- such as helping students in college avoid debt and spending hundreds of millions on roads, ports and other infrastructure. On the whole, Burman said, it is unlikely that Clinton's plans will have much effect either way on the federal government's bottom line.