Last week, S.2320, a bill that would create Universal Savings Accounts in the federal tax code, was referred to the Senate Finance Committee. The bill, sponsored by Senator Jeff Flake and Representative Dave Brat, would...
- The Tax Policy Blog
- The Fiscal Cliff in History
The Fiscal Cliff in History
Since it appears more likely than ever that we’ll go over the fiscal cliff, we might as well start cataloguing this historic achievement.
First, it will be the largest tax increase since World War II, at about 3.5 percent of GDP.
Second, the fiscal cliff is a historic income tax cliff. As the chart below shows, it will result in the highest tax rate on individual income (39.6 percent) since 2000, the highest tax rate on capital gains (23.8 percent) since 1997, and the highest tax rate on dividends (43.4 percent) since 1986.
Economic theory and evidence indicates these are among the worst kind of tax increases for the economy. As a result, most economists, including those at the Federal Reserve and the Congressional Budget Office, think this will lead to a recession in the first half of 2013. Arguably, this would be the first recession created by a tax increase since 1969, or, before that, the Great Depression. (The recession of 1990 coincided with a tax increase that was too small to have such an impact on the economy.)
Lastly, the fiscal cliff will be the first major tax increase since World War II to occur under a Republican controlled House of Representatives. The only lesson that can be drawn from that is don't do temporary tax cuts, e.g. the Bush tax cuts, unless you want them to be temporary.
Update: Steve Entin reminds me that the 1990 income tax increase was probably a contributing factor in that year's recession, as was that year's payroll tax increase, and the economy was already weakened by the 1986 tax increase on capital and the 1988 payroll tax increase.
Follow William McBride on Twitter @EconoWill
Get Email Updates from the Tax Foundation
We will never sell or share your information with third parties.
Join the Tax Foundation's fight for sound tax policy Go
About the Tax Policy Blog
The Tax Policy Blog is the official blog of the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit research organization that has monitored tax policy at the federal, state and local levels since 1937. Our economists welcome your feedback. If you would like to send an e-mail to the author of a blog post, please click on that person's name to locate his or her e-mail address or visit our staff page here.