Giant tax overhaul bill to be unveiled
Individuals and businesses will see some tax breaks, and some will foot the bill more than others.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- A bill representing the "mother of all tax reforms" is set to be revealed Thursday, according to House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY).
But Mother is going to have to be patient. No one expects Congress to deal with a tax overhaul this year - especially one estimated to cost $1 trillion.
Still, tax policy experts and political observers do expect Rangel's bill to provide serious fodder for debate in 2008.
"This is a view of coming attractions," said Greg Valliere, chief strategist of policy research firm Stanford Washington Research Group.
Rangel has promised his bill will "provide benefits to more than 90 million American families while also helping ensure that our companies remain competitive internationally."
But with any "revenue-neutral" bill, there's no free lunch. The tax cuts proposed must be paid for by provisions that raise revenue. In Rangel's bill, there are likely to be welcome tax cuts for both individual and corporate taxpayers, but just as many unwelcome tax hikes for some.
Here are some expected highlights:
Tax cuts for individuals
AMT repeal: The premier feature of Rangel's bill is expected to be a full repeal of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), estimated to cost more than $800 billion.
The AMT was originally intended for the wealthy few when it was created nearly 40 years ago. But because Congress never indexed for inflation the amount of income exempt from AMT and because it disallows a lot of popular tax breaks, tens of millions of middle-class taxpayers are at risk of having to pay it.
By definition, if you're subject to AMT you will pay more in taxes than you would under the regular income tax code.
Higher standard deduction: The majority of taxpayers take the standard deduction - they should benefit from an increase.
More generous tax credits for lower-income taxpayers: Rangel's bill is expected to call for a higher earned income tax credit for low-income couples without children and would make more of the child tax credit refundable. When a credit is refundable, that means taxpayers claiming it could get money back even if they don't make enough money to owe income tax.
Tax hikes for individuals
Add an income surtax: The bill may propose that high-income filers would pay at least a 4 percent surtax on adjusted gross incomes above $100,000 ($200,000 for joint-filers).
But with the repeal of the AMT, the majority of taxpayers with AGIs under $500,000 would pay less than under current law, the Tax Policy Center estimates.
Tax cuts for corporations
Lower corporate tax rate: The bill is likely to call for a reduction in the top corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to as low as 30 percent.
"A lower corporate tax rate is an unambiguous plus," said Len Burman, director of the Tax Policy Center.
In addition to those who always favor low taxes to promote economic growth, others might like this provision because "the lower the rate, the less incentive there is [for companies] to avoid taxes," Burman said.
Tax hikes for corporations
Disallow a favorite accounting method: Rangel's bill is expected to call for a change in the way the inventories of companies are valued, the net effect of which would be a hike in their taxable income.
Eliminate various corporate tax breaks: The complexity of the corporate tax code is almost without measure, in part due to the myriad tax deductions and credits that often favor some industries or products over others. Policy experts expect Rangel's bill will call for the elimination of a host of those tax breaks.
Combined with a lower corporate tax rate, the streamlining of deductions promises "to make companies more efficient economically," Burman said. Too often, he explained companies will make economic decisions based on tax rules rather than simply the conditions of the market. Elimination of certain tax loopholes "makes the system more fair," he said.
Guard against potential transgressions: One provision may give the IRS more leeway to impose penalties on corporations that engage in sham transactions, said Clint Stretch, managing principal of tax policy at Deloitte Tax LLP.