For Immediate Release: September 20, 2012

Rare Joint House-Senate Hearing on Tax Reform Will Fail without Commitment to Repeal Capital Gains Tax Break

 New Report Shows All Current Proposals Give Richest Taxpayers a Break More than a Thousand Times Larger Than They Give Middle Income Taxpayers

Washington, DC – In advance of a rare joint House-Senate hearing on tax reform and capital gains, a new report finds that the special low tax rates for capital gains and stock dividends will continue to provide huge benefits mainly to the richest one percent of Americans, no matter how Congress resolves the standoff over the expiring Bush-era tax cuts.

The report, from Citizens for Tax Justice, finds that the richest one percent of Americans would enjoy an average break of $41,010 on capital gains and dividends next year under the bill passed last August by the Republican-controlled House to extend all the Bush tax cuts. They would enjoy a slightly lower average tax break of $40,990 under the bill passed by Senate Democrats last July to extend most, but not all, of the Bush tax cuts. Americans in the middle fifth of the income distribution would enjoy an average capital gains and dividend tax break of just $30 next year under either approach. The report is available at this link.

Capital gains, which are the profits obtained from selling assets for more than their purchase price, were already taxed at lower rates than other income when President George W. Bush took office. The Bush tax cuts lowered the capital gains rate further and expanded the break to apply to stock dividends.

“The bad news is that none of the approaches to extending the Bush tax cuts would change the fact that these lower tax rates for investment income are a huge break benefiting the very wealthiest Americans,” said Steve Wamhoff, Legislative Director at Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ). “The good news is that both parties are talking about extending those tax cuts for only one year and then devising a comprehensive tax reform that makes dramatic changes. The question now is how Congress will define ‘reform.’”

The CTJ report, Ending the Capital Gains Tax Preference Would Improve Fairness, Raise Revenue and Simplify the Tax Code, released today makes five points.

1) The capital gains tax preference mainly benefits the richest one percent of Americans.
2) It reduces revenue, despite claims to the contrary.
3) It gives rise to tax shelters and makes the tax code overly complicated.
4) These problems will be mitigated, but certainly not eliminated, by the reform of the Hospital Insurance tax coming into effect in 2013.
5) The way to fully resolve the problems described here is to eliminate the special, low personal income tax rates for capital gains so that they are taxed just like any other income.

The hearing, which is scheduled for today at 10 a.m. EST, will be held jointly by the House Ways and Means Committee, which is controlled by Republicans, and the Senate Finance Committee, which is controlled by Democrats. The hearing is part of a series of unusual joint hearings to address topics related to tax reform.

Many members of the two committees have shown a willingness to retain, and even expand, some tax preference for investment income. The CTJ report recommends eliminating it altogether and points out that repealing this break completely is not a radical proposal – the Tax Reform Act of 1986 eliminated the capital gains tax break so that all income was taxed at the same rates. Preferential rates for capital gains were subsequently reintroduced into the tax code and the break was gradually increased by subsequent Presidents and Congresses. It was expanded dramatically under President George W. Bush.

“Any overhaul of the tax code that continues to tax the income of wealthy investors like Warren Buffett at lower rates than other income is not worthy of the term ‘reform,’” said Wamhoff.

Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ), founded in 1979, is a 501 (c)(4) public interest research and advocacy organization focusing on federal, state and local tax policies and their impact upon our nation (www.ctj.org).

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