Senate Republicans unveiled their big tax proposal Thursday, with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) hailing it as a way to “give hard working taxpayers across the country growing paychecks” and create a “vibrant” economy.
Tax cuts are the centerpiece of President Trump's economic plan that Republican lawmakers are aiming to get to him by Christmas. The Senate had the benefit of going after the House, so senators saw what generated the most outcry in the first go around.
Here's a rundown of the winners and losers. It's likely that most Americans would pay less in taxes under the plan, but it depends on a person's specific circumstances. Under the House bill, 31 percent of middle-class households would pay higher taxes by 2027, the Tax Policy Center found. Studies of the Senate plan will come out soon.
Big corporations. America's mega companies get a big tax cut: From 35 percent down to 20 percent. Yes, the lower rate doesn't kick in until 2019, a one-year delay from what Trump promised, but it's still coming. These businesses also get to deduct any new equipment purchases right away, another tax savings. And the whole business tax system shifts from worldwide (where income anywhere in the world gets taxed) to a territorial system (where income only in the U.S. is taxed), something corporations have wanted to see change for a long time.
Many small businesses. The vast majority of America's businesses (about 95 percent) are organized as “pass through” entities like partnerships, sole proprietorships and S-Corporations. Under the Senate plan, most “pass throughs” would be able to deduct 17.4 percent of their income tax free. The rest of the business income would be taxed at the business owner's individual income tax rate. Service businesses (i.e., law, finance or medicine) that earn more than $75,000 ($150,000 per married couple) would not be able to take the deduction. The National Federation of Independent Business said it was “encouraged” by the Senate plan that “includes real tax relief” for small businesses.
The wealthy. The rich get a tax cut from 39.6 percent to 38.5 percent. They also get some expanded tax breaks in the Senate GOP plan. The alternative minimum tax (AMT) goes away and they can deduct more of their charitable giving. Families making up to $1 million can also claim the child tax credit, well above the current $110,000 threshold where the credit starts to phase out now. The Senate plan would, however, keep part of the estate tax, but we'll get to that later.
People with homes worth $500,000 to $1 million. Under the Senate plan, Americans can deduct the interest paid on the first $1 million of mortgage debt. The House bill capped the deduction for new mortgage debt worth up to $500,000. The current threshold is $1 million, and the Senate keeps that in place, a boost to home builders, real estate agents and wealthy homeowners. Only 6 percent of U.S. mortgages are worth more than half a million.
Americans with hefty medical bills. The Senate keeps the popular medical deduction in place, which allows Americans with really high medical expenses to reduce their income taxes to help defray the costs of treatment. The deduction is currently taken by 8.8 million Americans, including many seniors suffering from diseases such as Alzheimer's.
Families that adopt children. The Senate keeps the one-time credit worth up to $13,570 for every child that families adopt. The House had originally proposed getting rid of the credit, but public pressure restored the credit on both the House and Senate plans. The credit helps families offset the sizable legal fees and adoption agency payments.
College and graduate students. The Senate keeps the student loan interest deduction that benefits so many college grads who have large debts from their college days. Many PhD students were also concerned about the House bill's provision to count tuition waivers from their universities as taxable income, a move that would raise many graduate students' tax bill by thousands of dollars. But the Senate plan keeps the tax breaks in place for graduate students.
People living in high-tax states such as New York and California. All state and local tax deductions (SALT) are gone in the Senate plan. Taxpayers would lose the ability to deduct their state and local property and other taxes from their federal taxes, a break used by about 44 million people (or 30 percent of tax filers.) A number of Republican House members insisted on only a partial repeal in the House bill, but the Senate has gone for a full repeal in an effort to raise more money to pay for tax cuts elsewhere.
Law, architecture, consulting, finance or medical small businesses. The Senate plan does not allow “service businesses” that earn more than $75,000 a year ($150,000 per married couple) to benefit from the small business tax break. Other small businesses like pizza shops can deduct 17.4 percent of their income, but service businesses cannot. Business owners also lose the ability to deduct many of their daily expenses for supplies, home office costs, legal fees, etc.
1,800 super wealthy heirs and heiress. The Senate has opted to keep in place the estate taxes (sometimes called the “death tax” by critics). At the moment, the tax only impacts about 5,000 wealthy families a year and it's only assessed on assets worth over $5.49 million ($11 million per couple). Under the Senate plan, the threshold doubles so people won't pay tax on the first $11 million they inherit (or $22 million for couples). The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that only 1,800 families would end up paying the estate tax after the change.
The poor. More than 70 million Americans don't make enough money to have to pay federal income taxes. Many of those people currently receive money back from the government because they qualify for refundable credits. Under the Senate plan, those credits aren't going away, but they also aren't growing. On top of that, the plan raises America's debt, which will likely require cost cuts somewhere down the line. Republicans have proposed sizable cuts in the past to some safety net programs used by the poor.
People who bike to work. The Senate plan does away with the $20 per month deduction people who bike to work can take.
Universities like Harvard with really big endowments: Universities with big endowments worth more than $250,000 per student would have to pay an excise tax of 1.4 percent on their investment gains for the year. This would mostly impact a small number of institutions with endowments over $1 billion.