The Tax Changes in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget

March 05, 2014

President Obama released his fiscal year 2015 budget yesterday. Overall, the president proposes to increase revenue by $1.759 trillion over ten years. This new revenue comes in the form of a couple large tax changes, numerous small tax changes, and new fees (which we don’t discuss in this post).

This analysis is a general overview and is based on the few specifics that the White House’s budget documents provide.

Major Changes for Individual Taxpayers

The President’s fiscal year 2015 budget introduces and expands a number of programs. He proposes to expand the child tax credit and the EITC, two of the largest family tax benefits. His budget also proposes to alter retirement plans and create an auto-enrollment IRA program. In order to pay for these expansions, his budget will raise taxes on high-income earners through a series of changes to tax expenditures, most notably placing a cap on the value of itemized deductions.

Expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit

The Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit are refundable tax credits aimed at working families. The size of these credits depends on income, marital status, and number of children.

Obama’s proposal would double the current EITC for childless working taxpayers from $496 to $1,000 and make the credit available for taxpayers who earn $7.50 an hour and work 40 hours a week (approximately $15,600). The proposal would also reduce the minimum age a taxpayer is eligible to receive this credit from 25 years to 21 years.

This proposal will cost approximately $60 billion over ten years according to the budget documents.

The additional cost would be offset by revenue from a series of tax increases such as taxing carried interest as ordinary income ($13.79 billion in new revenue), making S-corporation liable for self-employment taxes ($37.67 billion), imposing taxes on shareholders that enter into “Intermediary Transaction Tax Shelters” ($5.23 billion), and changing the rules for determining the cost basis of certain portfolio stock ($3.51 billion).

The Child Tax Credit will also be expanded (no details on how this expansion will affect taxpayers). The expansion will cost an additional $9.6 billion over ten years.

Auto Enroll IRAs and a Cap on Retirement Accounts        

Auto enroll IRAs make a return appearance in the budget. This proposal would require businesses with more than ten employees to automatically enroll workers in an individual retirement account (IRA). Employees would be able to opt-out if they choose. Businesses would receive tax credits to offset the cost of setting up these programs. This would cost approximately $14.5 billion over ten years.

In addition, the budget will place a cap on retirement accounts in order to raise $28 billion for what is called the “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative.”

New Taxes on High Income Earners

Obama’s budget reintroduces several tax proposals that aim to raise more tax revenue from high-income earners. This is where the budget gets most of its revenue.

  • Obama’s budget will limit the value of itemized deductions for high-income taxpayers, raising approximately $600 billion in new revenue. This change will only allow taxpayers to take itemized deductions against a 28 percent income tax rate, rather than in the tax bracket they actually fall. This reduces the value of itemized deductions and boosts taxes paid by high income taxpayers.
  • The Buffet Rule, or the “Fair Share Tax,” is a 30 percent minimum tax on high-income earners. It would raise only about $53.02 billion over ten years.
  • Increases the Estate Tax rate from 40 percent to 45 percent and lowers the exclusion, raising about $131 billion over ten years.

Major Changes for Businesses

Overall President Obama’s budget would raise taxes on businesses through the elimination of tax expenditures, changes to accounting rules, and altering provisions in the international tax system. Small businesses receive some treatment to lessen the double taxation in the tax code, but S corporations may now face higher taxes.

Possible Future Rate Change

The budget promises that a portion of the proposed tax increases on business will be used to pay for a future cut in the corporate rate to 28 percent and 25 percent for manufacturing. Future rate cuts for small businesses are mentioned as well, but the budget does not mention details.

Improves Capital Treatment for Small Businesses, But Subjects S Corps to Payroll Tax

The Obama budget made some changes to the treatment of small businesses. The budget proposes to extend increased expensing for small business. This is often known as section 179 deduction, which allows a business to fully expense capital costs up to a certain dollar amount. At the end of 2013, the section 179 allowable amount reverted back to $25,000 of capital investments, down from $500,000. Correct treatment would allow the full expensing of all capital investments.

Additionally, the budget proposes the elimination of capital gains taxation on investments in small business stock. Both these moves would help mitigate the bias against saving and investment present in the current tax code. These types of changes should not be limited to small businesses only.

On the flip side, the proposal would subject S corporations to the self-employment tax. As detailed above, this is one of the taxes used to pay for the EITC expansion.

New Revenues from Changes to the International Tax System

The international provisions in the Obama budget result in numerous tax increases on U.S. businesses that operate on an international basis. One of the largest changes would be to determine the foreign tax credit on a pooled basis. This would result in a tax increase of $74.7 billion over ten years for businesses that take the foreign tax credit.

Additionally the budget calls for a deemed repatriation of the foreign earnings currently held abroad. The administration estimates a one-time revenue gain of $150 billion from a retroactive tax on the $1-2 trillion worth of profits currently held or reinvested overseas.  

New Tax on Banks

Like Chairman Dave Camp’s (R-MI) tax reform plan, the Obama budget comes with a bank tax, or a “financial crisis responsibility fee.” This tax would be imposed on bank liabilities, as opposed to bank assets as seen in the Camp proposal, and would raise $56 billion in revenue over the budget window.

Repeal of LIFO

As in Camp’s and Baucus’s plans, the Obama budget proposes to repeal last-in, first-out (LIFO) accounting rules. It is unclear whether or not the Obama budget would institute this tax retroactively as in the Camp and Baucus proposals.

Research and Experimentation Tax Credit

The Obama budget would enhance and make permanent the R and E tax credit, increasing its size by $108 billion over ten years.

Energy Tax Provisions

Green Energy

The president’s budget makes permanent multiple tax provisions for green energy, including:

  • Tax credit for renewable electricity production
  • Deduction for energy efficient commercial building property
  • Modify and extend tax credit for construction of energy efficient new homes
  • Tax credit for the production of advanced technology vehicles
  • Tax credit for medium and heavy duty alternative-fuel commercial vehicles
  • Additional tax credits for investment in qualified property used in a qualifying advanced energy manufacturing project
  • Tax credit for cellulosic biofuel

Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas

The president’s budget eliminates multiple provisions pertaining to the treatment of oil, coal, and natural gas. The eliminated provisions for oil and natural gas include:

  • Expensing of intangible drilling costs
  • Percentage depletion for oil and natural gas wells
  • Domestic manufacturing deduction for oil and gas (Section 199)
  • Increase in amortization period for independent producers to seven years
  • Dual Capacity (International Tax Provision)

The eliminated provisions for coal include:

  • Expensing of exploration and development costs
  • Percentage depletion for hard mineral fossil fuels
  • Capital gains treatment for royalties
  • Domestic manufacturing deduction for coal and other hard mineral fossil fuels (Section 199)

Revenue Estimates of Tax Changes Included in the President’s Budget

We’ve included below a table of the revenue estimates of the tax changes in President Obama’s budget. The budget includes net revenue increases of $1.759 trillion over the next ten years, which includes tax increases of over $1.3 trillion (as outlined below). This table does not include the revenue the budget raises from new fees, such as the mandatory surcharge for air traffic services or revenues gained from new compliance rules.

Some of the largest tax increases are $598 billion from the limitation of itemized deductions for high earners, $131 billion from changes to the estate and gift tax, $276 billion from the changes to the international tax system, $56 billion for a new tax on banks, and $53 billion from the new “Fair Share Tax” inspired by the famous Buffet Rule.

See below for the list of tax changes (both increases and decreases). For reference, the information is presented in the same order as the summary tables. Please let us know if we forgot any changes.

Revenue Estimates for Tax Changes in President Obama's Fiscal Year 2015 Budget

Source: OMB Summary Tables of 2015 Budget

Tax Change

Revenue Increase/Decrease in Millions

Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative



Limits to Total Accrual of Tax Preferred Retirement Accounts


Surface Transportation Reauthorization



Transition to Reformed Business Tax System (Deemed Repatriation)


Early Childhood Investments



Increased Tobacco Taxes and Index for Inflation


Earned Income Tax Credit Expansion



Expanded EITC


Tax Expenditure Changes for High Income



Taxes Carried Interest as Ordinary Income



Conform SECA Taxes for Professional Service Businesses



Impose Liability on Shareholders to Collect Corporations Unpaid Income Taxes



Cost Basis of Stock Covered by Security must be determined with Average Cost Basis Method


Tax Provisions for Clean Energy and Manufacturing



Provide Additional Tax Credits for Investment in Qualified Property Used in a Qualifying Advanced Energy Manufacturing Project



Designate Promise Zones



New Manufacturing Communities Tax Credit



Tax Credit for the Production of Advanced Technology Vehicles



Tax Credit for Medium and Heavy Duty Alternative-Fuel Commercial Vehicles



Modify Tax Exempt Bonds for Tribal Governments



Extend Tax Credit for Cellulosic Biofuel



Modify and Extend Tax Credit for Construction of Energy Efficient New Homes



Reduce Excise Tax on LNG to Bring into Parity with Diesal


Tax Cuts for Individuals



Automatic Enrollment in IRAs, including a Small Employer Tax Credit and Double the Tax Credit for Small Employer Start-up Costs



Expand Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit



Extend Exclusion from Income for Cancellation of Certain Home Mortgage Debt



Exlusion from Income for Student Loan Forgiveness for students in Certain Income Repayment Programs who have Completed Payments



Exclusion for Student Loan Forgiveness for Certain Scholarship amoutns for Participants in HIS programs



Make Pell Grants Excludable from Income


Tax Increase for Upper Income Earners



Reduce Value of Certain Tax Expenditures for Upper Income Earners



Implement Buffet Rule through new "Fair Share Tax"


Changes to Estate and Gift Tax Provisions



Revert to 2009 Parameter for Estate and Gift Tax and Additional Changes


Reform Treatment of Financial Industry



"Financial Crisis Reponsibility Fee" and Other Financial Reforms


Other Revenue Raisers and Tax Expenditure Changes



Require Non-Spouse Beneficiaries of Deceased IRA Owners to Take Inherited Distributions over No More than Five Years



Increase Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund



Reinstate Superfund Taxes



Make Unemployment Insurance Surtax Permanent



Enhance and Modify Conservation Easement Deduction



Eliminate Deduction for Dividends Help in Certain ESOPs


Tax Comliance Reforms



Tax Gap and Compliance Reforms


Changes to Complexity of Code



Including Simplification of Rule for Claiming EITC for Workers without Qualifying Children and Repeal of Telephone Excise Tax


Provisions Pertaining to Manufacturing, Research, Clean Energy, and Insourcing



Tax Incentive for Locating Jobs and Business Activity in U.S.



Enhance and Make Permanent the R and E Tax Credit



Extend and Modify Certain Employment Credits



Modify and Make Permanent Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit



Modify and Make Permanent the Deduction for Energy-Efficient Commercial Building Property


Tax Changes for Small Businesses



Extend Increased Expensing for Small Business



Eliminate Capital Gains Taxation on Investments in Small Business Stock



Increased Limitation for Deductible New Business Expenditures and Consolidates Provisions for Start-Ups



Expand and Simplify Credits Provided to Qualified Small Employers for Non-Elective Contributions to Employee Health Insurance


Incentives to Promote Regional Growth



Permanently Extend and Modify the New Markets Tax Credit



Reform and Expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit


International Tax Provisions



Changes to International Tax Provisions


Elimination of Oil and Gas Provisions



Elimination of Oil and Natural Gas Tax Provisions Including Elimination of Intagible Drilling Costs and Percentage Depletion



Elimination of Coal Provisions Including Repeal of Expensing of Exploration and Development Costs


Additional Revenue Raisers Dealing with Accounting and Miscellaneous Provisions



Repeal of LIFO



Modification of Like-Kind Exhanges for Real Property (1031 Exchange)



Other Revenue Changes Inclusing Modification of Depreciation Rules for Business Aircrafts and Changes in Other Acounting Method




Update: We have made a change to more accurately reflected the effect of the cap on itemized deductions on high-income taxpayers in the "Major Changes for Individual Taxpayers" section.

Get Email Updates from the Tax Foundation

We will never sell or share your information with third parties.

Follow Us

About the Tax Policy Blog

Subscribe to Tax Foundation - Tax Foundation's 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.

Monthly Archive