This Super Tuesday the presidential primary season will finally kick into high gear, as millions of Americans go to the polls. Taxes have been a key issue this election season, with all of the candidates spelling out substantial tax reform agendas. Over the past year, we have kept a close eye on each candidate’s proposals and provided full distributional analyses of their plans when possible.
Below are short summaries of each candidate’s record and recent tax reform proposals.
Throughout her career, Clinton has pursued incremental changes that would significantly improve the fairness of the tax code. As a candidate, Clinton has proposed a series of progressive revenue-raisers, including estate tax reform, enacting a surcharge on multimillionaires and limiting the value of itemized deductions. In addition, she has proposed a variety of tax breaks (to be offset by the aforementioned tax increases) to address issues ranging from incentivizing companies to engage in profit sharing to helping individuals pay for the expense of taking care of a loved one.
Sanders has a long record of championing tax fairness through his many progressive legislative proposals, such as his bill to end offshore tax dodging and another to substantially reform the estate tax. During the campaign, Sanders has proposed more than $13 trillion in mostly progressive tax increases to fund his expansive agenda: moving to a single-payer healthcare system, increasing infrastructure spending and expanding access to college education.
CTJ Analysis of Sanders Health Tax Plan
Though he has not held any elected office, Ben Carson has used his position as a public figure to advocate for a flat income tax system based on the biblical tithe of 10 percent. As a candidate, he has proposed a 15 percent flat income tax – but in truth, the income tax rate would be 30.2 percent for many since his plan retains payroll taxes. A CTJ analysis finds Carson’s plan would cost $9.6 trillion in revenue over 10 years, actually increase taxes on the bottom 50 percent of Americans and provide the top 1 percent with two-thirds of the overall tax break.
Ted Cruz has made a name for himself as one of the most radical anti-tax lawmakers in the country by calling for the abolition of the IRS and for a move to an extremely regressive flat tax system. A CTJ analysis of Cruz’s tax reform plan found that his plan was the most costly, losing $16.2 trillion over 10 years. Even that number assumes he doesn’t eliminate tax collection altogether by following through on his call to eliminate the IRS.
While John Kasich has sought to portray himself as the moderate choice in the GOP race, his record as governor of Ohio is very conservative on tax issues. Kasich relentlessly pushed for largely regressive tax cut and reform measures. Unfortunately, Kasich has not specified his tax reform agenda in enough detail for CTJ to analyze, but what he has released indicates that his plan would follow the pattern of other candidates in cutting taxes by trillions of dollars, mostly for the rich.
Rubio has sought to set himself apart from other candidates by highlighting his proposals to replace the standard deduction with a refundable tax credit and to adopt a more robust refundable child tax credit. While this effort is commendable, CTJ’s analysis of Rubio’s plan found that only 6 percent of the $11.8 trillion in tax cuts he proposes would go to the bottom 20 percent, while over a third of the total would go just to the top 1 percent of taxpayers.
Donald Trump has been all over the place on tax policy during his career, proposing at one time to impose a heavy tax on wealthy individuals and later proposing massive tax cuts for those same individuals. Early in the campaign, Trump indicated that he would raise taxes on the well-off, but his tax reform plan would likely lower taxes for the rich (including himself). According to a CTJ analysis, his plan would cost an astounding $12 trillion in revenue over the next ten years, with a majority of the tax breaks going to just the richest 5 percent of taxpayers.
CTJ Analysis of Donald Trump’s Tax Plan