GOP’s Estate-Tax Repeal Details Would Save Super-Rich Tens of Billions Extra

GOP’s Estate-Tax Repeal Details Would Save Super-Rich Tens of Billions Extra

iStockphoto/The Fiscal Times
By Yuval Rosenberg

It’s no surprise that the House Republicans’ tax bill includes the eventual repeal of the estate tax, a long-held GOP goal. But The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler highlights an unexpectedly generous aspect of the current bill: It “allows the beneficiaries of estates to not pay capital gains taxes on the increase in value of assets held by the estates. That has not been a feature of most previous estate-tax bills.”

Currently, estates face a federal tax if they’re valued at more than $5.49 million for individuals or almost $11 million for couples. But, for tax purposes, the value of assets passed on to heirs gets “stepped-up” or reset to their value at the time of death. Kessler’s example: “Imagine a home that had been purchased for $250,000 but was now worth $1 million. The ‘stepped-up basis’ would be $1 million. If the heirs sold the house for $1.1 million, they would only owe capital-gains tax on the $100,000 difference, not the $850,000 difference from the original purchase price.”

The GOP bill repeals the estate tax, but also keeps the stepped-up basis — a seemingly small detail that creates a huge tax shelter. It means that heirs of large estates would save tens of billions of dollars a year when they sell assets that have appreciated in value over time — or, as Kessler puts it, that the bill will allow “tens of billions of untapped capital gains to remain beyond the reach of the U.S. government.”

Quote of the Day: Time to Raise Taxes?

iStockphoto/The Fiscal Times
By The Fiscal Times Staff

“Tax revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product is expected to be 16.5 percent next year. The long-term average in a full-employment economy is 18.5 percent of GDP; if revenue were at that level for the coming decade, debt would be $3.2 trillion lower and the 10-year fiscal gap would be halved. Returning to past revenue levels, however, will be inadequate over time, because an aging population will increase Medicare and Social Security costs. This need not pose a problem: Revenue was roughly 19 percent of GDP in the late 1990s, and economic conditions were excellent.”

– Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Richard E. Rubin, writing in The Washington Post

Quote of the Day: When Tax Cuts Pay for Themselves

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By The Fiscal Times Staff

“You … often hear the claim that a lot of tax cuts will ‘pay for themselves,’ that they’ll cause so much additional economic activity that the revenue feedback from that activity will fully offset the direct revenue loss caused by the tax cut so that you end up making money for the federal government, or at least not losing any money. Now, of course that is theoretically possible and it would happen at extreme rates. I mean if a country had a 99 percent flat rate income tax and lowered it to 98 percent, I believe that they almost certainly would collect more revenue at the 98 percent rate than they did at the 99 percent rate. But the idea that this type of effect would occur at today’s tax levels just requires responses that are much bigger than statistical evidence would support and I think much bigger than common sense would indicate if you just ask people how they themselves would react to the tax cut.”

-- Alan Viard, tax policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute

Map of the Day: Gas Taxes

Saving $1.11 a gallon might not sound like much. But if you're filling up a 20 gallon tank, you could save $22. Do that once a week and you'd save $1,150 a year.
iStockphoto
By The Fiscal Times Staff

It’s summertime and the driving is anything but easy if you want to get to your favorite beach or mountain cabin for a well-deserved break. As lawmakers consider a plan to raise federal fuel taxes by 15 cents a gallon, here’s a look at the current state-level taxes on gasoline, courtesy of the Tax Foundation

Stat of the Day: 0.2%

U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 23, 2018.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Jonathan Ernst
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The New York Times’ Jim Tankersley tweets: “In order to raise enough revenue to start paying down the debt, Trump would need tariffs to be ~4% of GDP. They're currently 0.2%.”

Read Tankersley’s full breakdown of why tariffs won’t come close to eliminating the deficit or paying down the national debt here.

Number of the Day: 44%

iStockphoto
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The “short-term” health plans the Trump administration is promoting as low-cost alternatives to Obamacare aren’t bound by the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to spend a substantial majority of their premium revenues on medical care. UnitedHealth is the largest seller of short-term plans, according to Axios, which provided this interesting detail on just how profitable this type of insurance can be: “United’s short-term plans paid out 44% of their premium revenues last year for medical care. ACA plans have to pay out at least 80%.”