Culture

The GOP Tax Plan: What It Means For You

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After multiple efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare failed, the GOP has one more major legislative achievement it’s hoping to pull off: Tax reform. The GOP’s tax reform bill has finally arrived, and it’s surprisingly lacking in ambition, which may spell doom before it even arrives on the floor. But if the bill does pass, prepare for a lot of misery come April as you try to sort through the sweeping changes.

Your taxes are getting much more complex. Much of what the GOP’s bill does is shift the burden onto the middle class. First, instead of seven tax brackets, the bill will shift to four: 12%, 25%, 35% and 39.4%. Currently, they’re 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35% and 39.4%. The GOP hasn’t released the income ranges that will fall into these brackets, but it’s fairly safe to assume that some Americans will be getting a tax cut, some such as the poorest will be facing a tax increase, although supposedly the very poorest will not pay income tax at all, and the GOP is hoping to make up the difference by eliminating some deductions and increasing others.

The GOP wants to eliminate state tax deductions. At the moment, you can deduct property taxes, income taxes, and sales taxes, as well as local taxes, and that saves taxpayers $96 billion a year. This would affect taxpayers in every single state that charges any sort of tax at all, and will likely mean an increase in what you pay at the end of the year. While this would affect blue states heavily, it’d ding plenty of other states as well.

Homeowners and home buyers take it on the chin. But those deductions are being limited and are, yet again, being made more complicated. One aspect that stands out is the GOP’s bill will make it far more expensive to buy a home. Not only is the GOP attempting to limit deductions from state taxes, they’re trying to cap property tax deductions at $10,000. It’s a bizarre decision not least because it benefits some blue states and punishes some red ones. It also caps the mortgage interest deduction to homes costing $500,000 or less, which wouldn’t seem to affect most but disproportionately affects taxpayers in states with high demand for real estate.

If you’re sick, your taxes are probably going up. The bill also attempts to remove your ability to deduct medical expenses from your taxes. The GOP is hoping to compensate for this by doubling the standard deduction for individuals and couples (to $12,000 and $24,000, respectively), but even just looking at the averages, medical expenses will erase, on average, two-thirds of that deduction, or even blot it out completely. Similarly, raising the child tax credit from $1000 to $1600, with $300 per dependent after, won’t do much for people caring for sick relatives.

Unsurprisingly, the rich get massive, if indirect, tax cuts. While the main income tax rate isn’t cut, the GOP is attempting to phase out the estate tax, by doubling when the maximum kicks in to $11 million, and phasing it out completely within six years. Still, that’s $18 billion of revenue per year and combined with the rumored cut to corporate taxes, the richest Americans get a sweet deal.

How likely is this bill to pass? That’s a good question. It seems likely to explode the deficit and thus infuriate the GOP’s anti-debt wing, and as there’s no bill yet, there’s no score from the Congressional Budget Office to determine what effects these ideas will have. But it may also annoy Trump, who promised massive cuts to the point of wanting to name the bill the Cut Cut Cut Act. That said, tax reform doesn’t really inspire much voter interest in the first place, so voters might not notice until April rolls around and they owe the government money.

That said, the bill has already enraged realtors and homebuilders. It’s also likely to draw opposition from doctors, insurance companies, health care companies, and state governments. The GOP appears to be banking on hoping taxes are too complex and boring for voters to care, but really, in the end, it’s simple: If you pay state taxes, have any chance of getting sick, or own a house, you’re going to pay more under the GOP’s plan.

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