WASHINGTON — President Trump’s one-page plan to dramatically overhaul the U.S. tax code could reap big benefits for one taxpayer in particular: Donald Trump.
His push to lower the corporate tax rate could slash taxes on the hundreds of limited liability companies that make up his real-estate and licensing empire. The billionaire and his family also stand to benefit from his plans to lower the income tax rate for the wealthiest Americans and to abolish the federal estate tax and the so-called alternative minimum tax.
One of the biggest potential tax windfalls: Trump’s push to lower the tax rate for so-called pass-through businesses.
Pass-throughs do not pay corporate taxes. Instead, the business’ income is reported on the owner’s tax returns and is taxed at the owner’s individual tax rate. Trump’s proposal would drop the current top tax rate of 39.6% to 15%.
Trump Organization LLC, the corporate umbrella for his far-flung business empire, is a pass-through business. And Trump’s financial disclosure forms show income from more than 500 business entities, many of them limited liability companies and partnerships that also qualify as pass-throughs.
“It’s a very large tax cut for high-income people who get their income through ownership of businesses,” Eric Toder, co-director of the Tax Policy Center, said of Trump’s plan to cut the top rate for pass-throughs.
Toder said Trump “fits the category of someone who would benefit” but said it’s hard to tell exactly how the change would affect the president because he has not released his tax returns.
Asked Thursday about the plan’s potential benefits to the president and his family, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said taxpayers are more concerned about what the plan would mean for their own tax bills.
“I would guess that most Americans would applaud what the president is doing to spur economic growth and job creation in this country,” Spicer told reporters.
Nearly 92% of U.S. businesses operate as pass-throughs, ranging from limited liability corporations to partnerships, such as hedge funds, medical practices and law firms, according to Scott Greenberg of the non-partisan Tax Foundation think tank.
The president’s advisers say reducing the tax rate for these business will help spur economic growth.
Toder said that’s hard to know.
“Will they do more? Will they work harder if their tax rate is lower? Will they invest more?” Toder said. “Maybe a little bit. On the other hand, you are substantially increasing the budget deficit and making the tax law much more complicated.”
Democrats this week slammed the tax plan as a giveaway for wealthy Americans, including Trump.
Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate’s tax-writing Finance Committee, denounced it a ”self-serving and elitist” proposal. He also has repeatedly called on Trump to release his tax returns to better gauge how the president’s policies affect his bottom line.
Trump is the first president in four decades not to release at least a portion of his returns, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters Wednesday that Trump has “no intention” of doing so.
Trump also has bucked presidential tradition by refusing to relinquish ownership of his businesses. Others presidents have either divested their interests, put them into blind trusts or stashed their money in diversified investment vehicles such as mutual funds.
Instead, Trump has shifted management responsibilities for his companies to his two adult sons and a veteran Trump Organization executive. The companies sit in a trust that he has the right to revoke, and newly released filings show he also has retained the right to withdraw money from the trust at any time.
Daniel Shaviro, a tax professor at the New York University’s School of Law, said lowering the corporate tax rate, as Trump proposes, could help create a more competitive climate for business in the United States.
But he said Trump’s plan ”gives enormous windfall gains to very rich people who get an overwhelming majority of the tax reductions.”
Tax experts say Trump also could benefit personally from other aspects of his tax plan, including his push to abolish the so-called alternative minimum tax.
The supplemental tax, which affects about 4 million households each year, aims to ensure that wealthy taxpayers do not take so many deductions or claim so many losses that they end up avoiding tax payments. A leaked 2005 tax return shows the alternative minimum tax increased Trump’s taxes by $31 million that year.
Trump also wants to repeal the federal estate tax, described on the White House’s plan as “the death tax.”
Currently, the estate tax, which has a top rate of 40%, only kicks in for individuals with estates worth $5.5 million or for a couple with an estate worth $11 million. Trump has claimed he’s worth $10 billion. Abolishing the federal estate tax would eliminate the taxes his heirs would have to pay on any inheritance.
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