What Donald Trump's Proposed Tax Cut Means For You

Now that Trump is president, both individual and corporate tax-payers are taking a second look at Trump's proposed tax regime to see how it will impact their bottom line.

Here is a quick primer.

Trump has proposed personal and business tax reform that would reduce tax revenues by an estimated $4.4 trillion over ten years, or roughly 1.9% of GDP over that period. Alternatively, this also means that GDP will grow by roughly the same amount, all else equal, with incremental debt use to fund the shortfall.  Roughly half of this cost is estimated to come from his proposed corporate tax reform plan, which would reduce the corporate income tax rate to 15% and would impose a one-time 10% tax on all foreign earnings not yet taxed by the US.

Companies would be free to repatriate earnings without additional tax once this tax has been paid. Like the House Republican proposal, this would involve a transition to a new corporate tax system for taxing foreign earnings. The two plans are similar in several other respects as well, including a top individual marginal tax rate of 33%. However, the House Republican plan is estimated to cost around half as much over the next ten years as Mr. Trump’s plan, at least in part because it proposes to go further in limiting or eliminating existing individual and corporate tax preferences.

This is summarized in the chart below. The good news is that virtually all entities and income tax brackets will pay less taxes compared to Obama's 2017 Budget (assuming Trump does not change his mind on this framework). The bad news, is that even more debt will be used to replace it, and should foreign buyers balk at US obligations it will require more deficit monetization courtesy of the Fed and another QE episode.

Which brings us to the second point: will Trump's tax plan pass? According to Goldman Sachs, the tax legislation has a good chance of passing in 2017, but it is not expected to reduce revenues by as much as Trump has proposed. There are three potential obstacles to its passage:

  • First, the cost is likely to be prohibitive for some members of Congress. While the majority party is able to pass tax legislation with only a simple majority in the Senate using the budget reconciliation process described above, it would require near-unanimity among the 52 Republicans in the Senate next year to do so. The prevailing expectation is that some Republican lawmakers would balk at the deficit impact of his proposal.
  • Second, while the House Republican proposal would increase the deficit less, it has also generally been proposed in the context of the broader Republican budget proposal, which would also reduce spending in several areas. Mr. Trump has not proposed a significant net spending reduction.
  • Third, tax reform is complicated, and even under a unified Republican government, it may be too complex to resolve in a matter of months.

Ultimately, the outlook for a tax cut depends on how willing marginal Republican lawmakers are to increase the deficit, and/or how willing they are to find offsetting savings elsewhere. Overall, there is a good chance that some type of tax legislation passes next year, but the obstacles to comprehensive tax reform go beyond partisan disputes, so one should expect tax legislation that is adopted in 2017 to be narrower in scope than the campaign proposal, and significantly smaller in its revenue effect; in other words much of this week's market rally - driven by hopes of tax-cut boosted economic growth  and consumer spending - will be for nothing.