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A widely tweeted report from the Tax Foundation claims that failure to enact the House Republican bill extending most of the expiring tax cuts would mean that Americans lose significant tax cuts — from an average $1,310 in Mississippi to an average $5,783 in Connecticut.
Here’s why the Tax Foundation report is highly misleading:
- The report discusses what will happen if the House GOP bill extending most expiring tax cuts is not enacted and all the tax cuts are allowed to expire, but fails to mention that President Obama’s approach would extend all tax cuts for 98 percent of taxpayers and partially extend them for the richest two percent of taxpayers. If the scenario studied by the Tax Foundation report (the complete expiration of all the tax cuts) comes to pass, it will be because the House of Representatives refused to approve the President’s approach, which has already passed the Senate.
- While the House GOP bill would extend more tax cuts for 2.7 million high earners (the richest two percent of taxpayers), it would allow the expiration of certain tax breaks for 13 million working families with 26 million children. These are the 2009 provisions expanding the EITC and Child Tax Credit, provisions that would be extended under the approach taken by President Obama and Senate Democrats. This is why our national report and our state-specific reports show that most income groups besides the rich would, on average, pay more in taxes under the GOP approach than under Obama’s approach.
- Even if the choice was between enacting the House GOP bill and allowing all the tax cuts to expire, the Tax Foundation report would be misleading because the average tax break for an entire state does not represent the tax break most taxpayers in that state would see. Any calculation of the average tax cuts under the House GOP bill will be skewed by the enormous tax cuts that go to the very richest taxpayers, resulting in an average tax break that is far greater than the median tax break (the tax break going to the taxpayer who is right in the middle of the income distribution). For example, we estimate that in Connecticut, the richest state in the U.S., the average tax break under the GOP bill for all the state’s taxpayers would be $3,810, but the average tax break for the middle 20 percent of the state’s taxpayers would be $1,020. (The report also shows that the average tax break for the middle 20 percent of taxpayers would be $20 larger under Obama’s approach.)
 Note our estimate that the House GOP bill would result in a tax break of $3,810 on average for Connecticut taxpayers, which is much smaller than the $5,783 estimated by the Tax Foundation. Part of the reason is that the Tax Foundation is including the full two years of AMT relief in the GOP bill, rather than one year. The report says that the House GOP bill would provide $403 billion of tax cuts, which is very close to the $405 billion figure at the bottom of this table from the Senate Finance Committee chairman’s website. The chairman’s table shows that the figures for the GOP approach clearly include a second year of AMT relief, which accounts for a fourth of that $405 billion total. Rightly or wrongly, both parties are committed to providing AMT relief each year until some sort of tax reform makes it unnecessary, so there is really no difference between the parties on this issue, even if the Democratic proposal up for debate right now only provides one year of AMT relief while the GOP proposal provides two years of AMT relief. In any event, it doesn’t make sense to estimate an average tax break including two years of AMT relief and then report that this amount is at stake “per year” as at least one media outlet has done.