President Biden and congressional Democrats’ Build Back Better (BBB) Act is now in the hands of the Senate. That legislative body’s 50-50 partisan split will undoubtedly make the bill’s passage difficult.
In order for BBB to become law, Democratic Senate leadership will need to convince moderates such as Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) that the legislation’s $2.4 trillion price tag can be offset by expanding the IRS and its enforcement efforts while imposing substantial tax reform measures.
Congressional Democrats have argued that one of the best ways to pay for the legislation is to raise taxes on wealthy households, which, according to many on the left, have benefited disproportionately and unfairly from the 2017 tax reform law passed by Republicans and signed by former President Trump. The latest data, however, proves that this claim is pure mythology.
Income data published by the IRS clearly show that on average all income brackets benefited substantially from the Republicans’ tax reform law, with the biggest beneficiaries being working and middle-income filers, not the top 1 percent, as so many Democrats have argued.
A careful analysis of the IRS tax data, one that includes the effects of tax credits and other reforms to the tax code, shows that filers with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $15,000 to $50,000 enjoyed an average tax cut of 16 percent to 26 percent in 2018, the first year Republicans’ Tax Cuts and Jobs Act went into effect and the most recent year for which data is available.
Filers who earned $50,000 to $100,000 received a tax break of about 15 percent to 17 percent, and those earning $100,000 to $500,000 in adjusted gross income saw their personal income taxes cut by around 11 percent to 13 percent.
By comparison, no income group with an AGI of at least $500,000 received an average tax cut exceeding 9 percent, and the average tax cut for brackets starting at $1 million was less than 6 percent. (For more detailed data, see my table published here.)
That means most middle-income and working-class earners enjoyed a tax cut that was at least double the size of tax cuts received by households earning $1 million or more.
What’s more, IRS data shows earners in higher income brackets contributed a bigger slice of the total income tax revenue pie following the passage of the tax reform law than they had in the previous year.
In fact, every income bracket with filers earning $200,000 or more increased its tax burden in 2018 compared to 2017, and every income bracket with a top limit lower than $200,000 paid a smaller proportion of the total personal tax revenue collected.
That means that Republicans’ tax reform law resulted in the tax code becoming slightly more progressive — the exact opposite of what Democrats have claimed over the past four years.
The IRS data further shows that the tax reform law — which included a variety of business tax cuts, including a large reduction in the corporate income tax rate — spurred economic mobility.
Every income bracket with a top level lower than $25,000 experienced a reduction in its number of filers, and every income bracket above $25,000 increased in size, with the biggest gains occurring in the brackets with a floor of at least $100,000.
The fact is, Republicans’ 2017 tax reform law did exactly what was promised: It lowered taxes for all income groups, provided the greatest benefits for middle-income households, and spurred economic growth that helped reduce poverty and improve prosperity.
It would be a grave mistake for Democrats to eliminate key parts of this important legislation.
Justin Haskins (Jhaskins@heartland.org) is director of the Socialism Research Center at The Heartland Institute and the co-author, with Glenn Beck, of the forthcoming book “The Great Reset: Joe Biden and the Rise of 21st Century Fascism.”