President Trump and Republican lawmakers recently unveiled a Blueprint for tax reform. However, there are still many uncertainties in the plan and in the prospects for passage. The plan calls for numerous changes to the current tax scheme, including a compression of income tax rates, a doubling of the standard deduction, the elimination of most tax deductions other than the mortgage interest and charitable deductions. The Blueprint also calls for the elimination of the alternative minimum tax (AMT), the Estate Tax, and the Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax (GST). There are some things, however, which remain unclear:
- If the Estate Tax and GST tax are repealed, what happens to the Gift Tax? The Gift Tax is sometimes considered as a disincentive which prevents people from dodging income tax by donating property to others in a different income tax situation.
- If the Estate Tax and GST Tax are repealed, would the heirs or legatees of the decedent still receive a “step-up” in basis? The Internal Revenue Code sets the income tax basis of property at the value determined for Estate Tax purposes. If there is no Estate Tax, it’s unclear what would happen with the step-up in basis.
- Would the legislation have a sunset provision? Legislation can be blocked if it will increase the deficit beyond a 10-year time horizon. Essentially, this means that 60 votes are required in the Senate to pass permanent legislation which would increase the deficit. So would the Republicans provide for its automatic repeal in ten years like the Bush-era tax cuts?
- How will we pay for the tax cut? According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the proposed plan would result in more than a $1.5 trillion cut in federal taxes over the next ten years and it is expected to increase the annual budget deficit by more than one-third. Given that many in Congress have been deficit hawks, this large increase in the deficit may be problematic for passage.
- Other hurdles for passage exist on the income tax side. The proposal would eliminate the deduction for state and local income taxes. This would be extremely unpopular in many Congressional districts. Nearly half of the districts which reported the highest percentage of returns with deductions for state and local income taxes.
Such sweeping reform is unusual. The last time such comprehensive tax reform was passed was in 1986, under Ronald Reagan, when he worked with “Tip” O’Neill and the Democrats to arrive at a deal. Needless to say, the relationship between the President and the Democrats is a far cry from what it was in 1986.
This article was originally published in Senior Living Magazine.