Paul L. Caron

Friday, September 16, 2016

NY Times:  Tax Lawyers — The Big Winners In Hillary Clinton’s 'Fiendishly Complicated' Tax Plan

Clinton KaineNew York Times: One Beneficiary of Clinton’s Complex Tax Plan: Tax Lawyers, by James B. Stewart:

It’s hard to imagine a tax code more complicated than the one we already have.

Hillary Clinton has come up with one.

“This isn’t tax reform,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an economist who served as director of the Congressional Budget Office and is now president of the American Action Forum, a conservative, pro-growth advocacy group. “It’s anti-reform. She’s layering on even more complexity.”

His views were echoed by a number of tax experts I spoke to this week about Mrs. Clinton’s tax plans, as I did earlier about Donald J. Trump’s.

In Mrs. Clinton’s favor, all the experts I interviewed said her proposals were more detailed, transparent and consistent than Mr. Trump’s and, even more important, would not blow open an estimated $10 trillion hole in the federal budget over a decade, as Mr. Trump’s proposals would.

“It has the important virtue of being fiscally responsible,” Leonard E. Burman, director of the centrist Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center and a professor at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, said of Mrs. Clinton’s plan. “It doesn’t make our long-term fiscal problems worse.”

To varying degrees, all agreed that Mrs. Clinton’s proposal would increase taxes on the rich and big business but that it would add so many new layers of complexity that it would, above all, be a huge boon for tax lawyers. “There’s a lot of new complexity,” said Mr. Burman. ...

“I have admiration for the mechanics” of the Clinton proposals, Mr. Holtz-Eakin said. “They’re more detailed and structured than Trump’s. But I have serious concerns about the quality. Their philosophy seems to be to give up on economic growth and try to deliver middle-class prosperity by taking from the rich.”

Everyone I interviewed criticized as fiendishly complicated and ineffectual what is probably Mrs. Clinton’s most innovative proposal, which is to put in place a graduated scale for tax rates on capital gains. ... The plan is lifted almost whole cloth from a paper published shortly before Mrs. Clinton’s N.Y.U. speech titled “How to Foster Long-Term Innovation Investment” by Neera Tanden and Blair Effron. Ms. Tanden, a close confidante and former campaign worker for Mrs. Clinton, succeeded the Clinton campaign manager John Podesta as president of the Center for American Progress, the think tank that published the paper. Mr. Effron is a co-founder of Centerview Partners, a Wall Street private equity and investment banking firm. Mr. Effron is also a major donor and fund-raiser for the Clinton campaign and has been mentioned as a potential Treasury secretary in a Clinton administration.

(Hat Tip: Mike Talbert.)

Political News, Tax | Permalink


Friends of mine (and, yes, I do have friends) tell me they vote their pocketbook. Using this logic, I should always vote Democratic. After all, trying to tax the rich ends up fattening my wallet. Fortunately, I don't let personal greed control who I vote for. Unfortunately, however, I have yet to find any politician who advocates simplification. (Hopefully, you agree it is impossible for the tax code to be fair.) Accordingly, I am resigned to waiting until our tax system collapses under the weight of its complexity. At some point, even the IRS's computers will give up. Making our tax code work is similar to dividing by zero, it can't be done.

Posted by: Dale Spradling | Sep 18, 2016 9:05:31 AM

Passing tax bills ain't what it used to be. Hillary can propose a plan that has no chance of being enacted into law wholesale, because before she spends any political capital compromising with Congress, she will use the "Obstruction" card, and use executive orders, IRS directives, and discretionary enforcement, e.g., to achieve a good deal of what she should have only gotten through compromise. Oh, and if and when she compromises, she will pretend that the negotiated fixes are permanent (like the 2012 reform of the Estate Tax that Sequestration brought), and then simply re-open all the concessions she did not like to begin with. What are the practical limits to executive overreach?

Posted by: MG | Sep 16, 2016 1:07:41 PM

I like how the authors of these articles assume that either Donald or Hillary's tax plans would be passed wholesale. They're delusional - Hillary's plan, for instance, without the House and Senate being in democrat's hands doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell at passing.

Posted by: Douglas | Sep 16, 2016 11:05:09 AM