Trump tax plan: Winners & losers, according to Philly accountants

Trump Tax Plan
The Internal Revenue Service building in Washington.

Welcome to a simpler tax plan! As Philly-area accountants see it, there are potential winners and losers.

The outline: The White House has proposed three new tax brackets for individual Americans, instead of seven: 10 percent; 25 percent; and 35 percent. Corporations would pay 15 percent, less than half the current 35 percent rate —  good news for the owners of small and midsize businesses.

Currently, the standard deduction is $6,350 for single taxpayers and $12,700 for married joint filers. President Trump wants to double the standard deduction, to $12,700 for singles and $25,400 for married joint filers.

Out the window: Long-standing deductions such as medical; state and local taxes (including property taxes); investment interest; casualty and theft losses; gambling losses; and certain employee expenses.

Only mortgage interest, retirement savings, and charitable deductions remain.

Winner: The rich, who would benefit more than the middle-class, as the alternative minimum and estate taxes also would disappear. But small and medium-sized business owners also would benefit, based on the 15 percent rate the White House proposes on corporate and pass-through business income.

Also, charities could reap big gifts. If, for instance, people can’t deduct property taxes, they may opt to write bigger checks to charity for higher deductions, said Mark Carrow, managing partner with Citrin Cooperman in Center City.

Loser: Property owners, especially in high-tax states such as New Jersey, New York, and California. If you own a residence in Pennsylvania or a beach house at the Jersey Shore, you won’t be able to deduct property taxes on either under the proposal. For many Americans, property taxes are their main deduction. Bye-bye to that.

“This proposal could represent a detrimental cost to the average person who lives in New Jersey, because it effectively pushes up your tax rate,” Carrow said.

Noted David Kotok, portfolio manager for Cumberland Advisors, a large municipal-bond investor: “There will be a decided pushback on state and local governments to forgo tax increases and roll back tax rates if possible, since state taxes effectively increase suddenly and significantly from their current levels.”

In the short term, Trump's tax proposal could give the economy a boost. Farther down the road, there could be issues.

Winner. The economy. According to the Penn Wharton Budget Model, “President Trump’s campaign tax plan stimulates the economy in the short run, by as much as 1.35 percent of GDP, but leaves the economy unchanged within just 10 years,” said Wharton professor Kent Smetters. See how at www.budgetmodel.wharton.upenn.edu, which has a presentation called “President Trump’s Tax Plan” on the home page.

Loser: Deficit hawks. Longer-term, the tax plan creates substantial deficits, which the White House “seems to be OK with,” said Arthur Zatz, special consultant with the Isdaner & Co. accounting and tax-planning firm in Bala Cynwyd.

“It’s not intended to be revenue-neutral, but to generate a deficit, and they argue economic growth will produce additional revenues to offset any losses,” Zatz said.

He views the first Trump proposal as “more of a letter of intent. Important parts are still unknown, so you can’t really plan using this proposal. And it is still skewed very much to upper-income people.”

What happens next? There are important milestones coming up over the next few months:

Health bill's disposition: House Republicans look likely to make another attempt at passing the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Republican leaders need to decide whether they can pass a health bill in the House, or officially postpone consideration and move on to other issues, since the budget and tax process cannot move forward until then.

Budget resolution for fiscal 2018: With health legislation in limbo, the only way Congress can pass a meaningful tax cut would be to win bipartisan support, or to pass a new budget resolution that explicitly instructs the tax-writing committees to cut taxes.

Draft tax legislation: In the near term, expect tax-writing committees, particularly the House Ways and Means Committee, to hold hearings examining some of the key issues. In the Senate, timing is more fluid; expect more detail from the Senate Finance Committee over the next couple of months regarding its approach for tax-reform legislation.

According to a note from Goldman Sachs last week to its clients, “The extended timeline for even a draft proposal suggests that while the House could vote on tax legislation in committee before August, a vote on the House floor is less certain, and Senate passage before August looks very unlikely. This suggests that tax legislation is unlikely to become law before Q4 2017. While enactment shortly before year-end is a clear possibility, we believe it is more likely to become law in Q1 2018.”