Trump and Clinton’s Tax Plans Leave Out Key Details

August 12, 2016

This week, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton gave speeches in Michigan outlining their respective economic policy platforms. Tax policy featured prominently in both speeches: Trump took the opportunity to announce revisions to his tax plan, while Clinton reiterated her call for higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

However, one important takeaway from both speeches is that neither Trump nor Clinton has released all of the details of their tax plans, leaving large gaps up to the public’s imagination.

While Trump’s speech on Monday clarified several details of his revised tax plan, it also raised several new questions. For instance, Trump called for three brackets of 12 percent, 25 percent, and 33 percent, but didn’t specify the thresholds at which each bracket would apply. His original plan called for a very wide 0 percent bracket, but Monday’s speech did not address whether the revised tax plan would retain this large tax cut for middle-income taxpayers. More generally, Trump has called for closing tax “loopholes” for high-income individuals, but has only specified one tax provision he would change, the current treatment of carried interest.

Meanwhile, Clinton said in yesterday’s speech that she would “cut taxes for middle-class families,” as her campaign has been promising for over half a year. However, the Clinton campaign has yet to specify the details of this tax cut: how large it would be, whether it would take the form of lower rates or expanded credits, which taxpayers would benefit, and so on. Given that the Clinton campaign has released dozens of very detailed policy proposals, it is surprising that the campaign hasn’t yet specified what its middle-class tax cut would look like.

Certainly, this presidential election hasn’t focused much on policy questions so far. However, we should continue to hold candidates to the expectation that they spell out the details of their policy proposals. In this sense, the Trump and Clinton campaigns both have more work to do.


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