Campaign Tax Comparison

They say the presidential campaign doesn’t really start until Labor Day – but for most of us, it seems like this long, ugly race has been going on since kindergarten. (Don’t laugh… Ted Cruz is already circling his wagons to run in 2020!)

For previous elections, we’ve created complete campaign-themed marketing kits, including customizable flyers and a PowerPoint presentation comparing the candidates’ tax proposals.

This year, things feel different. It’s an uglier election than usual, with both candidates setting records for unpopularity. The tone is different… it seems like most people are voting against whichever candidate they like the least, instead of for someone they can enthusiastically support.

I hear this from TaxCoach members across the country. They don’t want to talk about the race, their clients don’t want to talk about the race, and with negative feelings running high, nobody wants to take a position that might offend someone who hates their candidate with higher-than-usual passion.

So this year, we’re sticking with just the customizable tax-proposal chart. You’ll find it in the Marketing Templates section of TaxCoach, near the bottom under “Other Resources.” (I told Keith we should name that subhead “Kryptonite,” but he thought we should maintain at least a little respect for the democratic process.) Several members have already told us they appreciate having the chart as a briefing and discussion document, even if they don’t plan to make a formal presentation to prospects or clients. At least one is planning to mail it on letter head to clients. If you’re a TaxCoach member, feel free to use, adapt, and publish it as you see fit.

The chart shows that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has proposed a more-or-less standard Democratic suite of proposals: maintaining the current progressive rate structure, imposing a 4% surtax on incomes over $5 million and a so-called “Buffett Rule” imposing a minimum 30% tax on incomes over $1 million, extending the holding period for long-term capital gains from one year to two, and limiting the value of itemized deductions to 28%. She would also impose an “exit tax” on companies exiting the U.S., slap a new tax on high-speed trading, eliminate incentives for fossil fuel production, and boost incentives for R&D.

Clinton’s web site is full of the sort of detailed discussions and white papers you would expect from a presidential campaign. But realistically, none of those proposals stand much chance of passing. Even if, as polls suggest, Clinton wins by a landslide, and even if Democrats win the Senate, the House of Representatives is likely to remain in Republican hands. Given the gridlock we’ve seen over the past eight years, and the hostility that Republican voters display towards Clinton, odds of any significant tax reform seem low.

The chart also shows that Republican nominee Donald Trump is proposing a conventional Republican slate of ideas: compressing tax rates to three brackets of 12%, 25%, and 33%, boosting the standard deduction to $25,000 ($50,000 for joint filers), adding new deductions for health insurance and childcare costs, and eliminating AMT and estate taxes. Trump would also cut tax on corporate income and pass-through income to 15% and work to collect tax on corporate income stashed offshore.

But Trump’s proposals seem a bit more… “fluid” than Clinton’s. As President Obama said, Trump’s not really a “plans guy.” His proposals seem subject to change anytime his Twitter finger gets itchy. So we shouldn’t be surprised if we see changes before November 8, especially after this latest campaign staff shakeup.