Donald Trump repeatedly claims that Hillary Clinton is going to “raise your taxes very substantially.” She’s not, unless you are among the top 10 percent of taxpayers.
Analyses by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center and the pro-business Tax Foundation both concluded that almost all of the tax increases proposed by Clinton would fall on the top 10 percent of taxpayers. Hardest hit would be the less than 0.1 percent of taxpayers who earn more than $5 million per year.
Trump’s claim about Clinton’s tax plan has become a regular feature in stump speeches and interviews.
Trump at a rally at Pittsburgh International Airport, June 11: Hillary Clinton is going to raise your taxes very substantially, possibly to 55 or 60 percent. That is going to be the end. She’s gonna raise your taxes. And you know what? She has no plan. She doesn’t talk about it. She won’t talk about it. She’s gotta raise them to at least 55 percent.
Trump in a speech in Dallas, June 16: Hillary Clinton is going to raise your taxes big league. That’s the last thing you need. She has to. And you know, she doesn’t want to talk about it. But they’re talking about 55 and 60 percent. … She’s gonna raise your taxes like you’ve never seen before.
Trump at the Faith and Freedom Coalition Road to Majority Conference, June 10: Hillary’s agenda of taxation, and she wants to raise your taxes big league, folks, big league. Get used to it. Hear it. She wants to raise your taxes tremendously.
Trump in an interview on Fox Business News, June 21: Hillary has to raise taxes to 55 or 60 percent. There’s no way she can do anything less than that.
Unlike Trump, Clinton has not formally unveiled a comprehensive tax plan. Instead, Clinton has released her tax proposals over the course of her campaign, such as in January when she announced a 4 percent surcharge on people making more than $5 million per year. Most of her tax proposals to date are included in a fact sheet produced by the Clinton campaign, though the campaign promises that more middle- and lower-income tax cut proposals are coming.
Still, here are the biggest changes Clinton has proposed so far to individual income taxes:
- Enact a 4 percent surcharge on taxable income above $5 million a year.
- Enact the “Buffet Rule,” a 30 percent minimum tax on those with taxable income above $1 million.
- Limit the value of itemized deductions to 28 percent for taxpayers in higher tax brackets.
- Amend the schedule for capital gains rates: Assets held less than two years would be taxed as short-term gain at ordinary income tax rates; assets held six or more years would be taxed at 23.8 percent.
- Prevent people with high balances in tax-deferred and tax-free retirement accounts from making additional contributions.
- Tax so-called “carried interest” — which are profits from investments held for more than a year — at ordinary income tax rates, rather than at the lower capital gains rate.
- Enact a $1,200 tax credit for caregiver expenses.
The Tax Policy Center concluded that the sum of Clinton’s proposed tax changes — including changes to both individual and business taxes — would increase revenue by $1.1 trillion over the next decade.
“Nearly all of the tax increases would fall on the top 1 percent; the bottom 95 percent of taxpayers would see little or no change in their taxes,” the Tax Policy Center concluded.
In fact, the Tax Policy Center wrote, the “top 1 percent of households would pay more than three-fourths of Clinton’s total tax increases.”
The top 1 percent in 2017 would be those with incomes above $730,000 (in 2015 dollars), the Tax Policy Center noted. Those taxpayers would see a reduction in after-tax income of about $78,000, or 5 percent. “Taxpayers outside the top 5 percent (those earning less than $300,000 in 2015 dollars) would see little change in average after-tax income.”
The two biggest revenue-generators in Clinton’s proposal are the Buffet Rule and the 4 percent surcharge on income over $5 million, said Roberton Williams, the Sol Price fellow at the Tax Policy Center.
“We’re talking about a tiny sliver of people who would be affected by these very high taxes,” Williams said.
The 4 percent surcharge, for instance, kicks in for those who earn more than $5 million a year. That’s less than a tenth of 1 percent of U.S. taxpayers.
According to the TPC analysis, the bottom 40 percent of taxpayers would see no increase in their tax rates. The next 40 percent of taxpayers would see a 0.1 percent increase on average in their tax rates, and the top 20 percent of taxpayers would see an average rate increase of 1.3 percent. The very wealthiest taxpayers would bear the greatest burden, with the top 1 percent getting a 3.4 percent tax rate hike on average, and the top 0.1 percent seeing an average 5 percent tax rate increase.
As for Trump’s claim that Clinton would raise taxes “possibly to 55 or 60 percent,” it wasn’t clear to us whether Trump was saying some would be paying an effective tax rate of 55 percent to 60 percent, or if some taxpayers would see their rates rise by 55 percent to 60 percent. We reached out to his campaign for clarification, but we did not hear back.
Williams was hard-pressed to describe anyone who would pay an effective tax rate as high as 55 percent or 60 percent under Clinton’s plan. A few very wealthy taxpayers could see an effective tax rate approaching 50 percent, he said. More common would be those who might see a 55 percent to 60 percent increase over what they are paying now. Very high income people with lots of deductions, for example, could be hard hit by the Buffet Rule, Williams said.
“You could cherry-pick cases where someone would have a very large tax increase,” he said.
But those cases are far from the norm. Most middle-income taxpayers would see no change at all to their taxes under the proposals Clinton has laid out so far, Williams said.
The Tax Foundation reached a similar conclusion about Clinton’s tax increases falling on the wealthiest Americans. The Tax Foundation concluded the plan would decrease the country’s economic output, and specifically reduce the gross domestic product by 1 percent over the long term. And so, the Tax Foundation provides two sets of forecasts — static and dynamic — with the latter factoring in the expected effect on the economy. By the Tax Foundation’s calculation, Clinton’s tax plan would increase revenues by nearly $500 billion over the next decade, but only by $191 billion when accounting for the plan’s overall economic effect.
“The largest sources of revenue in the plan are the new taxes targeted at high-income taxpayers,” the Tax Foundation wrote.
Tax Foundation: On a static basis, Clinton’s tax plan would only reduce the after-tax incomes of top-income taxpayers. Those in the top 10 percent would see a reduction in income of 0.7 percent. The top 1 percent of all taxpayers would see a 1.7 percent reduction in after-tax income.
On a dynamic basis, the plan would reduce after-tax incomes by an average of 1.3 percent. All deciles would see a reduction in after-tax income of at least 0.9 percent over the long-term. Taxpayers that fall in the bottom nine deciles would see their after-tax incomes decline by between 0.9 and 1 percent. The top 10 percent of taxpayers would see a reduction in after-tax income of 1.7 percent. The top 1 percent of all taxpayers would see the largest decline in after-tax income: 2.7 percent.
Changes from Clinton’s plan would be negligible for those below the top 10 percent of earners, said Alan Cole, an economist at the Tax Foundation. The cap on itemized deductions at a value of 28 percent (thereby lowering the value of itemized deductions to people in higher tax brackets), would start to affect single people making $190,000 or couples making $230,000, Cole said. At the next threshold, the Buffet Rule applies to those making more than $1 million. And finally, the 4 percent surcharge kicks in for those making more than $5 million.
As for Trump’s claim about raising taxes 55 percent to 60 percent under the Clinton proposal, Cole said it is difficult to “come up with the right kind of person that would apply to.”
“If you look at someone who’s maybe got a lot of gross income but a lot of deductions because they are running a business, you could maybe find someone whose taxes would be raised that much,” Cole said. “But it’s not true for someone with a normal financial situation. You’d have to be mining for the exceptions.”
The Clinton campaign website claims she would give “working families … tax relief that will help them manage rising costs.” The Clinton campaign points to several tax cuts that Clinton supports, such as a tax credit for out-of-pocket health care costs, tax relief for families caring for ailing parents or grandparents, and a tax credit for college tuition. But those are all targeted tax relief measures, not across-the-board tax cuts for middle-income families.
The Clinton campaign told us “there will be more” middle-income tax cuts. The Tax Policy Center also noted that “representatives of the campaign told us that Clinton intends to propose a tax cut for low- and middle-income households later in the campaign.”
“We just don’t know what those may be,” Williams said.
It is true that Trump has called for tax cuts that would result in lower taxes at all income levels, though the biggest cuts would come for the wealthiest taxpayers, according to an analysis by the Tax Foundation. But when Trump claims that Clinton would “raise your taxes very substantially,” that’s not true for the vast majority of taxpayers.