Trump Tax Plan 2.0

19145168Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump recently announced revisions to his tax plan. And it has already been broken down and analyzed by the Tax Foundation. Individuals would be subject to just three possible rates: 12% for up to $37,500 in income; 15% for up to $112,500; and, 33% for over $112,500 (all double for married couples.) The top capital gains rate would be 20%. It would also increase the standard deduction to $15,000 (currently at $6,300.) Carried interest would be taxed as ordinary income. And there are other changes including a new childcare cost deduction.

As for business taxes, the plan reduces the corporate rate from 35% to 15%. It has a lesser rate of 10% for repatriated foreign profits. But on the negative side for manufacturers, it takes away the Section 199 domestic production activities deduction. The research credit is left intact. Unfortunately, it is not clear that the reduced corporate 15% rate will be applicable to business pass-through income (stay tuned on that.)

The estate and gift tax would be eliminated. However, the inheritors would eventually have to pay on the full gain realized when they sell the asset, without the benefit of a stepped-up basis.

What about the impact on revenues and our federal debt? Well, the new plan is better in that regard than the original. The static evaluation is that it will reduce revenues (increase the debt) somewhere between $4.4 trillion and $5.9 trillion (depending on the unspecified details) over 10 years; that is roughly half of the estimate of the plan he first outlined. The dynamic analysis, factoring in economic growth improvement associated with tax cuts, lessen the overall impact, but those numbers are inherently more speculative.

See the complete analysis and full breakdown from the Tax Foundation.

Transportation Funding: Current Taxes, Fees Not Paying for Highways

Transportation funding is a topic that is getting more traction (tire pun completely intended), and we recently explored the Chamber’s position on this blog, which includes comments from our own VP Cam Carter.

In fact, one of the Indiana Chamber’s legislative priorities for 2014 is development of a vehicle miles traveled pilot program. The need for such initiatives is illustrated in a new Tax Foundation study that finds just over half of state and local expenses on roads in 2011 came from highway user taxes and fees. Indiana falls below the national average.

Despite being dedicated to fund transportation projects, revenues from gas taxes and tolls pay for only about half of state and local spending on roads, according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. Alaska and South Dakota come last in transportation funding derived from gas taxes and tolls—10.5 percent and 21.5 percent, respectively—while Delaware and Hawaii rank the highest—78.6 percent and 77.3 percent, respectively.

State and local governments spent $153.0 billion on highway, road, and street expenses, but raised only $77.1 billion in user fees and user taxes ($12.7 billion in tolls and user fees, $41.2 billion in fuel taxes, and $23.2 billion in vehicle license taxes). The rest was funded by $30 billion in general state and local revenues and $46 billion in federal aid.

“The lion’s share of transportation funding should be coming from user taxes and fees, such as tolls, gasoline taxes, and other user-related charges,” said Tax Foundation Tax Foundation Vice President of State Projects Joseph Henchman. “When road funding comes from a mix of tolls and gasoline taxes, the people that use the roads bear a sizeable portion of the cost. By contrast, funding transportation out of general revenue makes roads “free,” and consequently, overused or congested—often the precise problem transportation spending programs are meant to solve.”

The story is much the same even when adding other transportation options to the mix. In 2011, state and local governments spent $58.7 billion on mass transit, $22.7 billion on air transportation facilities, $1.6 billion on parking facilities, and $5.2 billion in ports and water transportation, in turn raising $13.2 billion in mass transit fares, $18.8 billion in air transportation fees, $2.2 billion in parking fees and fines, and $4.2 billion in water transportation taxes and fees. Altogether, states raised about 48 percent of their transportation spending from user taxes, fees, and other charges.

Expanding tolls and indexing gasoline taxes for inflation may not be politically popular even though transportation facilities and services are highly popular. Given that transportation spending exists, states should aim to fund as much of it as possible from user fees and user taxes. Subsidizing road spending from general revenues creates pressure to increase income or sales taxes, which can be unfair to non-users and undermine economic growth for the state as a whole.

Licks or Clicks: Take Your Pick

I'll risk showing my age by asking how many remember the advertising phrase: "How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?" The ads on U.S. television go back to 1970.

I was somehow reminded of that when reading a recent headline that said: "How many clicks does it take to get to state tax information online?" Not quite as exciting or tasty a subject, but there is that alliteration.

The Tax Foundation asked the second question. Indiana was one of five states at the bottom of that list, requiring five clicks in order for a visitor to the state web site to find 2012 individual income tax rates. Three states (Colorado, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania) provided access with only two clicks.

A second query focused more on quantity of information rather than ease of locating. States were evaluated on the availability of 2012 and 2013 tax rate schedules, tax tables and tax forms. Five states had a perfect six score; Indiana was one of 11 with a five out of six.

What does it all mean? One takeaway is that states would be well served to reduce taxpayer frustration at an already frustrating time for many by making tax information available in an easy-to-locate manner. And, anytime you can pull out a 43-year-old Tootsie Pop reference, you have to take advantage of it.

The Tax Foundation has the details.

What You Should Know About ‘The Cliff’

Much has been written and said about the fiscal cliff. This summary and analysis from the Tax Foundation notes that the current situation "is the culmination of a decade of ‘temporary’ tax and budget bills that have postponed resolution of key policy differences." It looks ahead to the next steps. An example:

Estate Tax Increase
The estate of an individual who dies on December 31, 2012 will pay a federal estate tax (or death tax) of 35 percent on anything above $5.12 million. If the decedent instead passes away the next day, and Congress has not yet acted to change the law, the estate will instead owe a 55 percent tax on anything above $1 million. Even President Obama, no defender of estate tax repeal, considers this level too high: he has urged a compromise proposal of a 45 percent tax on estates over $3.5 million. Republicans generally support complete repeal of the tax.

There are few taxes that are as polarizing as the estate tax. A 2009 poll by the Tax Foundation found that the estate tax is viewed by taxpayers as the most "unfair" of all federal taxes but at the same time the estate tax seems to be a rallying point for those that agitate for redistribution through the tax code.[3] (In 2009, the estate tax raised about $20 billion, from a very small number of estates.) Opponents argue that the estate tax can break down family businesses while creating large compliance costs which are a drag on the economy.

Despite this seeming rift, there is a large and growing body of research by economists that generally lean left-of-center pointing toward repeal of the estate tax.[4] Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz, who served as chairman on Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors, authored a paper which argued that the estate tax actually increases inequality by reducing savings and driving up returns on capital (which largely benefit wealthy holders of capital).[5] Economist Larry Summers, former Treasury Secretary under President Clinton, co-authored a paper in 1981 that showed that the estate tax has severe impacts on the accumulation of privately held capital. Using Summers’ methodology, a July 2012 study by the Joint Economic Committee Republicans showed that since its inception, the estate tax has reduced the capital stock by approximately $1.1 trillion.[6]

The estate tax also encourages firms to structure as corporations instead of as family businesses, because corporations do not pay estate taxes when the person at the helm changes. Family businesses, however, can be subject to rates of over half the value of the estate when a deceased owner transfers the business to their heirs. This observation should be disconcerting to left-leaning voters, who recognize that smaller family businesses have ties to their communities. It should also concern right-leaning voters, who should see this as a distortion of the market process.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the estate tax is how uneven its impact is in practice. By utilizing careful estate planning, many wealthy taxpayers are able to shield much of their income from taxation upon their death. The people that tend to get hit the hardest are those that die unexpectedly, or, like farmers, have their assets tied up in illiquid holdings.[7] The estate planning industry has grown in size over the years as estate law becomes more complex. Three studies have even found that the compliance costs associated with the collection of the estate tax are actually higher than the amount of revenue the tax brings in.[8] Almost the entire estate planning industry can be thought of as economic waste, because it would not exist without the estate tax, and the high-skilled labor and capital utilized in that industry would be applied to other, more productive economic endeavors if the estate tax were repealed.

2011 and 2012 marked the first time in a decade that the estate tax rate and exemption level have been the same for more than one year. For 2010, the president and Congress (unintentionally) allowed the estate tax to expire completely, an outcome unexpected by most observers. While a repeat in 2013 may be desirable, exactly what happens remains to be seen.

Double the Taxing ‘Pleasure’ on April 17

There’s something ironic (not pleasant, but ironic) about Tax Freedom Day this year occuring on April 17 — the same day taxes are due. The day, according to the Tax Foundation, is when people finally work long enough to pay their taxes for the year.

The latest Tax Freedom Day took place on May 1, 2000. With the economy booming that year, Americans paid 33% of their total income in taxes. A century earlier was more pleasant with "freedom" arriving on January 22, 1900.

State tax burdens vary the tax timeframe. Indiana residents will "celebrate" on April 14, which ranks 26th nationally. As for the best of 2012:

  • Tennessee, March 31
  • Louisiana and Mississippi, April 1 (no foolin’)
  • South Carolina, April 3
  • South Dakota, April 4

And the worst:

  • Connecticut, May 5
  • New Jersey and New York, May 1
  • Washington, April 24
  • Wyoming and Illinois, April 23

More on Illinois: Tax Until You Drop, And They Probably Will

We told you here two days ago that Illinois lawmakers were seriously considering tax increases of 75% on individual income and 49% on corporations. Well, good news for the residents of the land that might more closely resemble its nickname (Prairie State) in the coming years as those increases were lowered to 67% and 30%, respectively.

Governor Pat Quinn is expected to sign the legislation to help stem an ever-growing budget deficit. The state anticipates it will raise an additional $6.5 billion in revenue in 2011. But do those projections take into account the companies and the families that will be fleeing for points near (Indiana) and far?

We hinted earlier that Indiana would need to be ready to roll out the welcome mat for those defectors. A brief conversation with someone from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (and public comments from Mitch Roob) confirmed that an aggressive marketing plan is in the works along with additional personnel in Northwest Indiana and focused efforts in Terre Haute, Evansville, etc.

The Tax Foundation reports the moves (if part of the 2011 evaluation) would drop the Illinois tax climate from No. 23 to No. 36. Indiana, by the way, is a solid No. 10.

Here’s the Tax Foundation brief on the impacts of the spend, spend, tax and spend some more plan in Illinois.

Land of Leavin’?: Illinois Pushing People to Call Indiana Home

During a first week of January when most legislatures were just beginning their work for the year, our neighbors to the west were taking action that prompted two responses:

  1. Relief, once again, that I work and live in the Hoosier state
  2. Thanks for further opening the state borders with one-way traffic heading from Illinois to Indiana

What are they in the process of doing in Springfield? Increase individual income, corporate income and cigarette taxes to historially high levels. A 75% hike for citizens, 49% for businesses (resulting in the dubious distinction of the highest corporate tax rate in the country and the largest combined {national and state} rate in the industrialized world) and more than 50% on cigarettes.

The Tax Foundation goes into detail on the changes, but common sense tells one that the effort to fix past out-of-control spending is misguided. Economic development officials up and down the west side of Indiana (along with state officials) should be working overtime to attract businesses, entrepreneurs and anyone else looking to escape the Land of Economic Lunacy.

Indiana’s Business Tax Climate: Not a Perfect One, But a Good 10

We’re No. 10! We’re No. 10! Not exactly the rallying cry one is used to hearing, but a refrain that deserves more plaudits than usual. Here’s why Indiana’s ranking in the Tax Foundation’s 2011 State Business Tax Climate Index is noteworthy:

  • It’s not easy to make substantial improvements in this area. Indiana has ranged between No.12 and No. 14 over the last five years
  • The top eight seemingly head the list by default as they do not impose one of the big three taxes (sales, income or corporate income). So, without too much of a stretch, you could say Indiana is second on the list
  • We’re far away from the bottom 10; in order from No. 50, that’s New York, California, New Jersey, Connecticut, Ohio, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Rhode Island and North Carolina

The Indiana Chamber’s advocacy efforts certainly are contributing factors to the state ranking. Historic tax restructuring in 2002 (including elimination of the inventory and corporate gross receipts levies) is among the Decade of Policy Victories document reflecting major legislative accomplishments from 2000-2009. The Chamber has also achieved success in general property tax reductions and an expansion of a variety of tax credits (good for business, but not earning high marks in this report).

According to the Tax Foundation, the worst tax codes tend to have:

  • Complex, multi-rate corporate and individual income taxes with above-average tax rates
  • Above-average sales tax rates that don’t exempt business-to-business purchases
  • Complex, high-rate unemployment tax systems
  • High property tax collections as a percentage of personal income

Indiana’s rankings in the five categories are: corporate tax index, 21st; individual income tax index, 11th; sales tax index, 20th; unemployment insurance tax index, 12th; and property index, 4th.

Since this tax analysis game is not for the faint of heart, a little more from the Tax Foundation on how it all works.

The methodology of the State Business Tax Climate Index is centered on the idea of economic neutrality. If a state’s tax system maintains a “level playing field” for businesses, the index considers it neutral and ranks it highly. However, each state’s final score depends on a comparison with the other 49 states.

The overall index is composed of five specific indexes devoted to major features of a state’s tax system. Each of these five indexes is composed of several sub-indexes.

Each state’s laws and tax collections were assessed as of July 1, 2010, the first day of the 2011 fiscal year. Newer tax changes are the subject of commentary in an appendix but are not tallied in the scores and rankings.

The Tax Foundation has data charts, further analysis and a full 60-page report. By the way, you have to go west for most of the rest of the top 10 (in order): South Dakota, Alaska, Wyoming, Nevada, Florida, Montana, New Hampshire, Delaware and Utah.

And finally, going into a state budget year that will bring pressure to raise revenues, let’s all keep the vital importance of the tax climate in mind on business attraction and expansion decisions.

Looking Behind the Ranking Numbers

Two pieces of seemingly conflicting news that came out late last week:

Indiana ranks sixth overall and first in the Midwest on Area Development magazine’s list of “Top States for Doing Business,” but Forbes placed the state 29th on its “Best States for Business and Careers” list.

These are just two of the numerous state rankings that are published throughout the year, but why is Indiana ranked so highly by one publication while falling below the middle of the pack in another?

A little digging reveals that the way the data is compiled varies extensively. According to the Area Development web site, the magazine conducted a “flash survey” of a select group of respected consultants who work with a nationwide client base. The consultants were asked to name their top 10 state choices in eight selection criteria, which include lowest business costs, most business-friendly and corporate tax environment, to name a few. All of the criteria were given the same weighting. Find the complete article and rankings here.

For the Forbes list, the ranking measures six categories (none of which were the same as the Area Development list, with the exception of business costs). Then, 33 points of data were factored in to determine the rankings in the six main areas, with weight given to business costs. The data came from 10 sources (such as the Census Bureau, FBI, Tax Foundation, Department of Education) with research firm Moody’s Economy.com as the most-utilized resource. Find the complete article and rankings here.

Already, these are two dramatically dissimilar methods for calculating rankings. A little farther down in the Area Development article, the writer even admits that if the criteria were regrouped into three categories, the rankings would see significant change.

Just keep in mind that the way the data is interpreted is often subjective and that the rankings one sees may be utilizing very different measures.

The good news, however, is that in general Indiana is ranked very highly and the state boasts a business-friendly environment – evident by the new and expanding businesses around the state despite the difficult economic times. The Indiana Chamber will, of course, continue to be a key player in helping ensure the state’s business success.

Freedom Comes With a Big (Tax) Price

Freedom is a good thing. But I’m not sure you, I or others necessarily feel better this week at the opportunity to enjoy Tax Freedom Day for 2010.

According to the Tax Foundation, national Tax Freedom Day is tomorrow — April 9. That means Americans will have worked well over three months of the year  before they have earned enough money to pay this year’s tax obligations at the federal, state and local levels. (Due to different income levels and tax burdens, the Tax Freedom Day for Hoosiers was actually Tuesday).

Tax Freedom Day is one day later than in 2009, but more than two weeks earlier than in 2007. The reasons for the three-year change: recession, temporary tax cuts and several tax repeals. Nevertheless, we will pay more taxes in 2010 than we will spend on food, clothing and shelter combined.
 
See what I mean; not exactly cause for celebration. The Tax Foundation offer the following facts and figures:

  • Tax Freedom Day does not count the deficit even though deficits must eventually be financed. If Americans were required to pay for all government spending this year, including the $1.3 trillion federal budget deficit, they would be working until May 17 before they had earned enough to pay their taxes – an additional 38 days of work.
  • In 2000, Tax Freedom Day was celebrated May 1, the latest date ever. A string of tax cuts between 2001 and 2003 pushed Tax Freedom Day up by two weeks, so that it fell on April 16 in 2003 – at the time the second earliest Tax Freedom Day since the Johnson administration.
  •  Five major categories of taxes dominate the tax burden. Individual income taxes – including federal, state and local – require 32 days’ work. Payroll taxes take another 25 days’ work. Sales and excise taxes, mostly state and local, take 15 days to pay off. Corporate income taxes take eight days, and property taxes take 12. Americans will log six more days to pay other miscellaneous taxes, most notably including motor vehicle license taxes and severance taxes, and about half a day for estate taxes.
  • Each state has its own Tax Freedom Day. Because of modest incomes and low state and local tax burdens, Alaska and Louisiana celebrate Tax Freedom Day earliest on March 26, the 85th day of the year. Connecticut celebrates last on April 27, the 117th day of the year, because income per capita is higher than in any other state.
  • Tax Freedom Day answers the basic question, “What price is the nation paying for government?” An official government figure for total tax collections is divided by the nation’s total income. The answer this year is that taxes will amount to 26.89 percent of our income, and the stretch of 99 days from January 1 to April 9 is 26.89 percent of the year. Income and tax data are then parsed out to the states, yielding 50 state-specific Tax Freedom Days.