Republican Presidential Candidates Vie to Offer the Biggest Tax Cuts

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The Republican presidential candidates have all promised to make the Bush tax cuts permanent if elected. This would cost $5 trillion in the first decade alone and most of the benefits would flow to the top 5 percent (or 1 percent if the AMT is not fixed). Any attempt to put our fiscal house in order while extending these tax cuts would require a scaling back of public services that would be truly dramatic and unthinkable, as we've pointed out before. Nonetheless, the GOP candidates are trying to prove that they're even more anti-tax than President Bush. They have apparently decided that the Republican primary voters will not be mobilized and energized by a promise to extend the policies that appear to be in place today. The Republican base wants something more and something new.

Romney's "Stimulus"

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney unveiled a new tax plan last weekend, calling his proposal an "economic stimulus plan" even though most of the provisions would be permanent rather than limited to any temporary, recessionary period. Romney would cut the lowest federal income tax rate (10 percent) down to 7.5 percent, and he would make this change retroactive to 2007 for those with incomes below $97,500. He would also eliminate payroll taxes for people over 65 who are still working and repeats his intention to make interest, capital gains and dividends tax-free for those with incomes below $200,000, even though most people below this level don't enjoy much in the way of investment income.

Who Can Cut Corporate Taxes the Most?

For business, Romney would allow 100 percent "expensing" of equipment for two years retroactive to 2007 and he would cut the corporate tax rate from the current 35 percent down to 20 percent over two years. Last week we reported that Senator John McCain and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani both want to reduce the corporate tax rate to 25 percent. While some conservatives like to point out that our nominal corporate tax rate is high compared to that of certain other countries, the effective corporate tax rate is certainly quite low because of the loopholes businesses use to avoid taxes. Last year Citizens for Tax Justice found that, measured as a share of GDP, our corporate tax ranks among the lowest among industrialized countries. Both Giuliani's and McCain's plans would create a permanent research credit, and McCain would, like Romney, allow "expensing" of "equipment and technology investments."

Giuliani's Friends Introduce His "Simplification"

Meanwhile, Giuliani's friends in Congress have introduced a bill to implement the former mayor's tax proposal. Called the "Fair and Simple Tax" or FAST, it would lower the corporate rate to 25 percent, lower the capital gains rate to 10 percent, repeal the estate tax, and allow taxpayers the option of using a simplified tax that has three rates, 10 percent, 15 percent and 30 percent. This would be a huge tax break for the wealthy. The 30 percent rate begins at income of $150,000 and we've reported before that most of the current capital gains and dividends tax break goes to the richest 0.6 percent.

Citizens for Tax Justice has produced preliminary estimates showing that Giuliani's tax plan would cost, at least, an eye-popping $11 trillion over a decade.

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