From a Tax Policy Center analysis of Mitt Romney’s tax reform proposals.
Our major conclusion is that any revenue-neutral individual income tax change that incorporates the features Governor Romney has proposed would provide large tax cuts to high-income households, and increase the tax burdens on middle- and/or lower-income taxpayers.
Our major conclusion is that a revenue-neutral individual income tax change that incorporates the features Governor Romney has proposed – including reducing marginal tax rates substantially, eliminating the individual alternative minimum tax (AMT) and maintaining all tax breaks for saving and investment – would provide large tax cuts to high-income households, and increase the tax burdens on middle- and/or lower-income taxpayers. This is true even when we bias our assumptions about which and whose tax expenditures are reduced to make the resulting tax system as progressive as possible. For instance, even when we assume that tax breaks – like the charitable deduction, mortgage interest deduction, and the exclusion for health insurance – are completely eliminated for higher-income households first, and only then reduced as necessary for other households to achieve overall revenue-neutrality– the net effect of the plan would be a tax cut for high-income households coupled with a tax increase for middle-income households…
In addition, we also assess whether these results hold if we assume that revenue reductions are partially offset by higher economic growth. Although reasonable models would show that these tax changes would have little effect on growth, we show that even with implausibly large growth effects, revenue neutrality would still require large reductions in tax expenditures and would likely result in a net tax increase for lower- and middle-income households and tax cuts for high-income households.
It would be possible to reduce the regressivity of such plans or even to maintain progressivity in such plans with reductions in the tax rate cuts for high-income taxpayers and/or significant reductions in the tax preferences for saving and investment, including the preferential rates on capital gains and dividends.
Absent any base broadening, the proposed reductions in individual and estate taxes specified in Governor Romney’s plan would decrease federal tax revenues by $360 billion in 2015.7 These tax cuts predominantly favor upper-income taxpayers: Taxpayers with incomes over $1 million would see their after-tax income increased by 8.3 percent (an average tax cut of about $175,000), taxpayers with incomes between $75,000 and $100,000 would see somewhat smaller increases of about 2.4 percent (an average tax cut of $1,800), while the after-tax income of taxpayers earning less than $30,000 would actually decrease by about 0.9 percent (an average tax increase of about $130) due to the expiration of the temporary tax cuts enacted in 2009 and extended at the end of 2010.
In order to form a revenue neutral plan, the proposed revenue reductions from lower rates must be financed with an equal-value elimination or reduction in available tax preferences. (In our analysis, we assume that eliminating preferences that lower rates on savings and investment is off the table.) Offsetting the $360 billion in revenue losses necessitates a reduction of roughly 65 percent of available tax expenditures. Such a reduction by itself would be unprecedented, and would require deep reductions in many popular tax benefits ranging from the mortgage interest deduction, the exclusion for employer-provided health insurance, the deduction for charitable contributions, and benefits for low- and middle-income families and children like the EITC and child tax credit.
The key intuition behind our central result is that, because the total value of the available tax expenditures (once tax expenditures for capital income are excluded) going to high-income taxpayers is smaller than the tax cuts that would accrue to high-income taxpayers, high-income taxpayers must necessarily face a lower net tax burden.
As a result, maintaining revenue neutrality mathematically necessitates a shift in the tax burden of at least $86 billion away from high-income taxpayers onto lower- and middle-income taxpayers. This is true even under the assumption that the maximum amount of revenue possible is obtained from cutting tax expenditures for high-income households…..
The above estimates assume that all available tax expenditures for higher-income households are completely eliminated—tax expenditures that include deductions for charitable contributions, mortgage interest, state and local taxes, and exclusions from income of health insurance and other fringe benefits. To the degree any of these were even partially retained for high-income households, the net tax cuts for high-income households and tax increases for low- and middle-income households would be even larger.
Beezer here. You can read the report in its entirety to get a real perspective about how wildly off Romney’s proposals are. The Tax Policy Center is politically neutral as well. The study’s authors include one who served in the Clinton Administration and one who served in the George W. Bush administration. My reading is that the TPC study bent over backwards to try and give the least abrasive analysis, even assuming removing tax expenditures like child credit, mortgage interest deductions and several other popular tax expenditures–in other words reforms that are highly unlikely to pass Congress. So the actual effects of Romney’s provision for tax cuts he’d enjoy the most from compared to the rest of us, are worse than the study reports.
This is Noble laurette economist Paul Krugman’s take on the proposals.
1. Neither candidate is offering a realistic tax plan, because the fact is that the federal government is going to need more revenue than either is currently proposing. But the two men are not equivalent in their unrealism: Obama is proposing to raise revenue by around $80 billion a year compared with current policy, while Romney is proposing to cut revenue by around $450 billion a year compared with current policy. Obama is inadequate; Romney is intensely, screamingly irresponsible.
2. On top of that, Romney is scamming voters, claiming not only that he can make up the lost revenue by closing unspecified loopholes, but that he can do so in a way that doesn’t shift the tax burden away from the rich onto the middle class. He can’t, as a matter of sheer arithmetic — which is the point of that Tax Policy Center study.