Checking Trump's claims on the GOP tax bill

The president repeated several claims about the tax bill, but are they true?

ByABC News
December 21, 2017, 5:23 PM

— -- President Donald Trump and Republicans plan to ring in 2018 with an aggressive sales pitch for their $1.5 trillion tax cut plan. Ahead of the bill's passage this week, Trump repeated several notable claims about what it will mean for Americans. So how do those claims stack up against the actual bill? Here's a look:

1) Postcard-size simplicity

Trump promised a tax code so simple most would be able to file their returns on a form the size of a postcard, even going so far as to kiss a mock-up during a photo op in November. "Great job, thank you very much. I didn't know I was going to be given a prop," Trump said on Nov. 2.

“Imagine filing your taxes on a form the size of a postcard. Imagine fewer, more simple deductions. And imagine three brackets instead of seven. This is not the stuff of fairy tales. This will be the reality if we finally reform our broken tax code,"House Speaker Paul Ryan's website reads.

The GOP bill: Nothing in the 503-page tax bill mandates the creation of new, postcard-size tax forms. "We're in the process already of designing new forms so that Americans don't have thousands of pages of tax forms," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said recently. The Treasury Department could not say whether those forms would be postcard-size. "I think you made the jump to saying the new forms themselves are postcard-size, but regardless that’s in the IRS’s wheelhouse," said Treasury spokeswoman Molly Meiners.

The IRS would not say if or when it plans to begin printing new tax forms or whether they would be postcard-size. While the newly doubled standard deduction may mean simplified returns for more Americans who used to use complicated itemizing, there is not a wholesale simplification of the code under the Republican plan. The bill does not collapse brackets from seven to three as once promised, for example. Many deductions are preserved. And new provisions for “pass-through” businesses -- that is, businesses that don't have to pay corporate income taxes on their income -- will only add to the complexity.

2) 'Greatest benefit' for middle class

"If you look at the whole thing, everybody's going to benefit. But I think the greatest benefit is going to be for jobs and for the middle class, middle income," Trump said on Dec. 16.

The GOP bill: The GOP tax plan will reduce taxes on average for all income groups initially, including middle-class Americans. The average household will see a tax cut of $1610 next year, according to the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank. Overall, most Americans -- eight in 10, according to the center -- will pay lower taxes next year. But multiple independent analyses concluded that wealthier Americans and corporations will receive the largest benefit over the long term. “In general, higher-income households receive larger average tax cuts as a percentage of after-tax income,” the center found. “On average, in 2027 taxes would change little for lower- and middle-income groups and decrease for higher-income groups.”

3) 'The rich will not be gaining at all'

“The rich will not be gaining at all with this plan. We are looking for the middle class and we are looking for jobs -- jobs being the economy," Trump said on Sept. 13.

The GOP bill: The top individual income tax rate is cut from 39.6 percent to 37 percent in the bill -- a significant benefit for top earners. Some business owners whose income is taxed through the individual code will also get a substantial effective rate cut, from 39.6 percent to 29.6 percent. The administration said new caps on deductions popular among wealthier Americans -- for example, state and local taxes, and mortgage interest -- will counterbalance the rate cuts. But most independent analysts find that the richest Americans will still see a net gain under the changes. By 2027, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, Americans making more than $1 million, for example, will experience an average 1 percent reduction in federal taxes, whereas Americans earning $40,000 to $50,000 will see a 4.4 percent increase in what they pay.

4) Closing the 'carried-interest loophole' for hedge fund managers

Then-candidate Trump blasted hedge fund managers as “paper pushers” who are “getting away with murder” under a special tax provision and vowed to eliminate it as president. "We're getting rid of carried interest provisions," Trump said in October 2016.

“As we continue to evolve on the framework, the president has made it clear to the tax writers and Congress. Carried interest is one of those loopholes that we talk about when we talk about getting rid of loopholes that affect wealthy Americans,” Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn told CNBC on Sept. 28.

The GOP bill: Hedge fund managers -- who are paid in large part by so-called carried interest from an investment fund -- will still be eligible for special lower rates. The income can still be treated as capital gains (eligible for a rate as low as 23.8 percent) rather than earned income (subject to a top tier rate of 37 percent) -- no change from current law. The bill does, however, add a new restriction, requiring hedge fund managers to hold the assets for at least three years in order to qualify for the lower rate.

5) Eliminating the estate tax

Trump made eliminating the estate tax, which he regularly branded the “death tax” on the campaign trail, a key component of his tax plan as both a candidate and president. "No family will have to pay the death tax," candidate Trump's tax reform plan proposal reads.

The GOP bill: The estate tax is preserved, but the exemption from the tax is doubled from $5.6 million estates and lower to $11.2 million -- a big benefit for the wealthiest Americans.

6) Largest tax cut in history of U.S.

“Stocks and the economy have a long way to go after the Tax Cut Bill is totally understood and appreciated in scope and size. Immediate expensing will have a big impact. Biggest Tax Cuts and Reform EVER passed. Enjoy, and create many beautiful JOBS!” Trump tweeted on Dec. 19.

“It's something that's going to be monumental. It will be the biggest tax decrease or tax cut in the history of our country,” Trump said on Dec. 15.

The GOP bill: The current bill is projected to cut federal tax revenue by roughly 1 percent of the GDP per year overall -- the 8th largest tax cut enacted since 1918 as a percentage of the GDP, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, an independent bipartisan public policy organization. In inflation-adjusted dollars, the legislation’s estimated $1.5 trillion price tag is the fourth largest in recent history. The tax cut signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 was the largest since 1918 -- reducing federal revenues by 2.9 percent of GDP, according to the Treasury Department.

Related Topics