Hillary Clinton has often said she wants the rich to pay their “fair share.” Translation: More.
And the bevy of tax proposals she’s put forth so far would certainly raise the tax burden of the country’s highest earners, according to a new analysis from the Tax Policy Center.
But figuring out their taxes also would be made more cumbersome.
“[Clinton’s plan] would make the tax code more complex,” said TPC director Len Burman.
“It’s not major reform,” Burman noted.
But Clinton’s plan also diverges notably from those of her Republican opponents, including Donald Trump, in another key way: It wouldn’t explode the nation’s debt. The Tax Policy Center estimates that the proposals she’s put forth so far would reduce deficits in the first decade by $ 1.1 trillion and by another $ 2.1 trillion in the next decade.
The caveat: The Tax Policy Center analysis could not account for a yet-to-be-released Clinton proposal to cut taxes for low- and middle-income filers, which her campaign has said is forthcoming.
Here are some key highlights from her plan to date:
Raise income taxes on the wealthiest
Clinton’s plan would make the tax code even more progressive than it is today.
She would impose the so-called Buffett Rule, requiring those with adjusted gross incomes over $ 1 million to pay a minimum of 30% of their income in taxes.
On top of that, she would impose a 4% surcharge on adjusted gross income over $ 5 million.
Clinton would also limit the value of certain deductions and exclusions to 28%. That would reduce the benefit of those tax breaks for anyone in tax brackets higher than 28%.
These measures individually and combined would make figuring one’s tax liability harder. For instance, filers would need to compare their tax bill under both the regular code and the Alternative Minimum Tax to what they would owe under the Buffett Rule, and pay whichever is highest.
“Tax preparation software makes such calculations manageable, but they would still make the already murky individual income tax even more opaque,” the TPC analysis noted.
High-income investors subject to higher capital gains taxes
Capital gains are a big source of wealth for very high-income filers — defined as those making more than $ 400,000.
Under today’s tax code, they pay a 20% tax on realized gains from investments held more than a year. Clinton would preserve that rate, but only for investments held at least six years.
Under her plan, realized gains on investments held less than six years would be taxed on a sliding scale.
Investors would pay the ordinary income tax on investments held less than two years. Currently, that’s only the case for investments held less than one year.
The top capital gains tax rate would then fall by about 4 percentage points each year thereafter until it reaches 20% in year six.
On top of the new capital gains tax rates, Clinton would preserve the current 3.8% in Medicare surtaxes that investors owe if their gains exceed a certain threshold.
Investment fund managers would pay more
Clinton wants so-called carried interest to be taxed as ordinary income.
Carried interest is a portion of investment profits paid to managers of hedge funds, venture capital funds, and other private equity funds.
Currently those profits are taxed as capital gains at 20% (or 23.8% if the managers also owe the Medicare surtax). In either case, that is well below the 39.6% top rate individuals pay now on ordinary income.
With the Medicare surtax, investment managers would face a top rate of 43.4% on their carried interest under Clinton’s plan.
Big estates would face higher tax rates
Money and assets left to heirs would be taxed more heavily if they come from a big estate.
Clinton would tax estates worth more than $ 3.5 million ($ 7 million for married couples.) That’s below today’s estate tax exemption level of $ 5.45 million ($ 10.9 million for couples).
She would also raise the top estate tax rate to 45% from 40%.
How much more would the rich pay?
The report estimates that the top 1% of households would see their tax burden go up by more than $ 78,000 on average, reducing their after-tax income by 5%.
The top 1% are defined as households making more than $ 730,000, an amount that includes both taxable income and non-taxable income, such as tax-free bonds, 401(k) contributions and health insurance subsidies.
All told, the top 1% would pay more than three-quarters of Clinton’s tax increases.
The vast majority of tax filers would see little change in their after-tax income — at least under the plans she’s unveiled so far.
Economic effects unclear
Clinton’s higher tax rates on top earners may discourage their incentives to work, save and invest, the TPC analysis notes.
But the potentially negative economic impact may be offset depending on how lawmakers use the additional revenue raised.
If it’s used to pay down debt, that could reduce interest rates, thereby increasing incentives to invest and supporting growth. Or the money could be spent in ways that stimulate the economy over the long run, such as on needed infrastructure projects.