commentary & opinion

Is Trump's Tax Reform Agenda Out of Step With Public ?

Public favors revenue increases, but not tax cuts

University of Maryland study gives a sample audience the opportunity to ‘set revenue levels.’ Visit here.

WASHINGTON, April 3, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — As the Trump administration pivots from healthcare to tax reform, a new, innovative survey reveals the Trump administration’s tax reform agenda is at odds with the public’s priorities.

Based on “Tax Reform That Will Make America Great Again,” a document issued by the Trump campaign in September 2016, the administration will seek to reduce income taxes, corporate taxes, taxes on capital gains and dividends, the estate tax, and taxes on pass-through entities. None of these reductions are favored by a majority of the public or even a majority of Republicans. The only Trump proposal to get majority support is for increasing taxes for carried interest.

In the survey, conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation, a representative sample of voters were given the opportunity to set revenue levels. Majorities increase income taxes for higher earners, corporations, and capital gains and dividends, while oppose reductions in the estate tax, or taxes on owners of pass-through-entities (e.g. partnerships). Overall the majority increase revenues by $112.2 billion per year. While Democrats increase revenues a bit more (118.5 billion), Republicans raise them somewhat less at $36.2 billion.

A $555 billion gap

According to scoring of the Trump proposals by the Tax Policy Center and the Tax Foundation, the net effect of the reductions proposed by the Trump campaign in these six areas would be a reduction of at least $441.9 billion in revenue. Thus the gap between the Trump proposals and the public’s positions is at least $555.1 billion.

“The American public appears to be far more concerned about the deficit than the President,” said PPC Director Steven Kull.

The one area where the public is in line with the Trump proposals is for increasing the tax on hedge fund managers, by taxing carried interest like ordinary income.

The survey took a representative sample of 1,800 registered voters through a process in which they were given the opportunity to make changes to existing taxes and to consider new tax proposals. As they went along they received input about the impact of their choices on the deficit, though they were not prompted to reduce the deficit. This is part of a larger study in which they were also given the opportunity to make changes to spending.

Personal Income Taxes 
The Trump proposals call for reducing the top tax marginal tax bracket from 39.3 to 33 percent, repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax, and repealing numerous deductions. All income brackets would get some reduction, but just over three quarters of this reduction would go to the top twenty percent of taxpayers who would see their average tax rate reduced by 4.9 percent. The Tax Foundation, using dynamic scoring, projects that the resulting loss of Federal revenue will average at least $105.8 billion per year.

Tax increases for higher eraners

For the public, the majority does not reduce the taxes of any income group. But they do make tax increases for higher earners income. Starting with a slight majority raising taxes on incomes starting at $100,000 (the top 22 percent of earners) by 5 percent, with larger percentages proposing 5 percent increases at higher income levels. At the million- dollar income level, 52 percent are ready to raise taxes by 10 percent. Majorities raise revenues a total of $63.3 billion.

Republicans started raising rates 5 percent on income starting at $200,000, producing a total of $34.1 billion in revenue. Democrats raise rates 5 percent starting at $100,000, going up to 10 percent starting at $500,000, producing a total of $69.6 billion in revenue.

Read more on Capital Gains and Dividends, Corporate Taxes, Estate Tax, Owners of Pass-Through-Entities and Carried Interest here.

The survey was fielded March 8-16 with a national probability-based sample of 1,817 registered voters, provided by Nielsen Scarborough from its sample of respondents, recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. The margin of error was +/-2.3 percent.

The full report, which includes responses to spending items and other revenue options, will be forthcoming in the next weeks.

A full chart of the comparative revenue effects of the tax proposals with partisan breakdowns can be seen here.

The questionnaire can be seen here.