Trump tax plan cuts corporate rates, nearly doubles standard deduction


The Republicans’ long-awaited tax framework would cut the top tax rate for the wealthy, drastically slash taxes for businesses and eliminate most itemized deductions, according to a copy obtained by The Hill.

President Trump is expected to promote the framework today at a rally in Indiana as Republicans seek a win after their bruising defeat in failing to repeal ObamaCare.

The new document provides information on tax rates and certain tax preferences but is vague in some areas, leaving most of the details up to the congressional tax-writing committees as they craft legislation. 

Republicans say they intend for a tax-code overhaul to simplify the tax code, provide tax relief for the middle class and make American businesses more competitive with those from other countries.

Here’s a look at what’s in the tax framework:

Individual rates

The plan would collapse the number of individual tax brackets from seven to three, with rates of 12 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent. However, it also would give the tax-writing committees flexibility to add a fourth rate above 35 percent for the wealthiest taxpayers.

The top individual rate is currently 39.6 percent. The bottom rate is currently 10 percent, but Republicans expect most people in that bracket to be better off under the framework, even though the bottom rate is increasing, thanks to an increased standard deduction. 

Deductions and credits for individuals

The standard deduction would nearly double, to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples. Doing so is designed to increase the number of people who end up in a zero percent bracket. Personal exemptions are being eliminated and consolidated into the bigger standard deduction.

The plan calls for increasing the size of the child tax credit and provides a $500 credit to help people who care for those who aren’t their dependents. Providing a child care benefit has been a top priority for the president’s elder daughter, Ivanka Trump. 

Most itemized deductions would be eliminated, though tax incentives for mortgage interest and charitable contributions would remain. Additionally, the framework directs the tax-writing committees to keep tax incentives for higher education, retirement savings and work.

Estate tax and alternative minimum tax

The estate tax and the alternative minimum tax would be repealed.

Republicans argue that the estate tax is harmful to small business owners and family farmers and that the alternative minimum tax increases the complexity of the tax code. But the repeal of these preferences is likely to upset many Democrats, since the estate tax mostly affects the wealthy and the alternative minimum tax was designed to prevent the rich from paying little in taxes.

Business tax rates

The framework lowers the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. This would amount to a significant decrease but would be less than the 15 percent rate Trump has called for.

The plan also calls for lowering the top rate on income for so-called pass-through businesses to 25 percent. Pass-through businesses include everything from small businesses to law firms and have their income taxed through the individual code. 

A key challenge with lowering the pass-through rate is making sure that wealthy individuals don’t try to reclassify their income as business income in order to avoid taxes. The framework calls for adopting measures to ensure that individuals don’t try to game the system, but it does not specify what those measures are.

Business investment provisions

The plan would allow businesses to immediately write off the full costs of their capital investments for at least five years. House GOP leaders and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have pushed for that plan, known as “full expensing,” arguing that it will help to boost economic growth. But full expensing has a hefty price tag, and some businesses would prefer lawmakers to focus on rate cuts.

The framework calls for partially limiting businesses’ ability to deduct their interest expenses. This deduction is important for many industries, including agriculture, private equity and real estate.

Business tax preferences

The framework allows the tax-writing committees to decide what business tax breaks to eliminate but calls for the preservation of the research and development tax credit and the low-income housing tax credit.

International tax changes

The framework would move the U.S. toward a “territorial” system that doesn’t tax dividends from U.S. companies’ foreign subsidiaries. It would call for a minimum tax on foreign profits at a reduced rate to ensure that companies that use tax havens pay at least a certain level of taxes on a global basis.

To transition to the new system, there would be a one-time tax on the foreign earnings that U.S. companies currently have held overseas. There would be two repatriation rates: one for cash and cash equivalents and a lower rate for other types of assets. The numbers for the rates aren’t specified.

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