Tax Foundation Grades the Presidential Candidates

January 14, 2012

Jon Huntsman Leads with B+, Santorum Trails with D+

Washington, DC, December 19, 2011--Taxes are at the top of the agenda in the 2012 presidential race, but the complexity of the competing candidates' plans can make them difficult to evaluate. To help clarify the issue, the Tax Foundation has reviewed the positions of the Republican nominees for President and assigned them letter grades based on how closely their plans are guided by the principles of sound tax policy.

Top of the class honors go to former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who received a grade of B+, while former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum brought up the rear with a grade of D+. Herman Cain's plan is included for comparison purposes despite his campaign being suspended.

Tax Foundation Candidate Grades:

Huntsman: B+

Perry: B

Cain: B-

Paul: B-

Gingrich: C+

Bachmann: C

Romney: C-

Santorum: D+

Johnson and Roemer: incomplete

"We relied on candidate statements, websites, and all other available information for the specifics of each plan. We also took into account not only the specified ideal of each plan but the practical implementation as we see it," said McBride. "We believe this is the right approach, since the history of taxation tells us that the law and the practice are often two very different things." 

Tax Foundation economists judge every tax measure against the principles of economically sound tax policy, which say that taxes should be neutral to economic decision making, they should be simple, transparent, stable, and they should promote economic growth. From these principles, we have developed ten basic questions to judge the economic quality of any tax plan or proposal.

The basis for the candidates' grades are discussed in the recent study Tax Foundation Fiscal Fact No. 286, "How to Judge a Tax Plan" by Will McBride, Ph.D.

Information on the tax proposals of the current candidates for President of the United States is available on the Tax Foundation's Presidential Candidate Tax Plan Comparison page. Users can compare the plans side by side and click through to original source documents.

Candidate grades are provided for educational purposes only. The Tax Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization and does not endorse or oppose any candidate for elected office.

The Tax Foundation has monitored fiscal policy at the federal, state and local levels since 1937. To schedule an interview, please contact Richard Morrison, the Tax Foundation's Manager of Communications, at 202-464-5102 or

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