Last month the GOP presented a plan for the budget it hopes can overhaul the tax code. Whether or not the GOP can take their measure to the House remains to be seen. The budget plan suggests hefty cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, Federal employee pension plans and more. With such heavy hitters in play in the GOP’s plan, it’s unclear whether or not any real moves toward tax reform are possible. But, we know it’s a major agenda item of President Trumps—in a speech during his 2015 campaign for presidency, Trump promised, “ … we’re going to reduce taxes tremendously.” He went on to comment, “[the U.S. has] the highest tax rate anywhere in the world and our middle class is being absolutely destroyed.” Does Trump’s assumption hold water? An article published last week in the Business Insider says … “kind of.”
The article pulls from a report that compares the tax rate of 35 nations, published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Each nation is a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which was founded in 1960 to stimulate the global economy. As a nation, the United States’ tax burden was rated at 25%, taking into consideration a variety of 2014 tax data including property tax rates and income levels compared to the gross domestic product and revenue per capita. The 35-nation average was well above the United States, with a 34% average tax burden. The report doesn’t necessarily back the President’s assumption, but it does show where we could stand to make progress through tax reform. However, Trump’s claim was spot on in one area: corporate taxes, which indeed are among the highest in the world. When compared to Germany—a nation with similar economic qualities to the U.S.—our corporations are paying about 15% high taxes on their profits. When talking about U.S. corporate taxes, it appears Trump was spot on.
But, as a whole … not so much. In a different article analyzing Trump’s black-and-white claim, an international tax advisory group known as KPMG ranked the top U.S. tax rate of 39.6% the 33rd highest among 116 nations. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the lowest U.S. income tax rate is 10%. A list compiled by Ernst & Young shows 41 nations have a higher “bottom” rate.
So, Where To?
In April of this year, the White House provided an initial glance into Trump’s ideas about where reform could/would take place. The brief announcement detailed the goals that have been lined up by some of Trump’s closest advisors, including Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Paul Ryan. On the corporate-tax side of things, the aim is to simplify and lower taxes in an attempt to create “a system that encourages American companies to bring back jobs and profits trapped overseas.” If the Trump Administration is able to get a reform plan accepted with the principles of their initial briefing, it could provide a substantial win for the President while remaining consistent with one of his campaign promises. But, as we’ve seen with the administration’s attempts to shakeup healthcare, it could be a bumpy road ahead.